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HITEC 2015: Lessons for You as an Exhibitor

Okay, this is my last article on this year’s HITEC, I swear! Superior booth design is worth addressing much like my diatribe on e-blasts because with hundreds of exhibitors on the convention floor it is still hard to get attendees to notice you. While this may not concern many of you as hoteliers, nonetheless there are many vendors amongst us and, heck, you never know when you’ll be charged to represent your hotel abroad at a convention or other booth-mandated symposium.

Without further adieu, here are my observations for you to consider:

  • Coffee and snacks. Tradeshows are tiring. You’re on your feet for most of the day, moving from booth to booth with back-to-back meetings. Then throw in jetlag and I’m surprised they don’t have a napping station on the main floor. To alleviate drowsiness and to encourage attendees to stop in for a minute, offer them coffee and treats. The best coffee stations were those with actual espresso machines and accompanying baristas for a quality cappuccino or americano. In terms of snacks, most came in the form of sugary confectionaries or branded baked goods. As it was Texas, I was a little miffed that no one was providing brisket samplers or ribs – now that would’ve been a popular booth!
  • Cushy flooring. Many exhibitors brought thick rugs or mats to spread over the convention center’s hard concrete and industrial carpeting. This has two chief benefits. One, for the employees you send down to man the booth, they will be on their feet for hours on end, so giving them extra padding helps uplift their moods and reduce fatigue. Next, it has a subtle effect on attendees who, suffering from the same foot-related issues as vendors, will be more likely to stay put at a booth with comfortable flooring.
  • Quality seating. Building on that last point, you can’t have a productive meeting when the attendee’s back flairs up from sitting on a wooden lawn chair. Make your booth inviting for long-term conversations by supplying chairs with cushioned backings or properly adjusted stools. Moreover, think of your staff – comfortable seating will heighten their energy levels to help sell your product.
  • Make it interactive. Sight isn’t the only sense and the best booths I saw were tactile. Rather than push their physical goods against the booth’s back wall, they placed them adjacent to the aisle for all to see and touch. And for software, quite a few booths had tablet stands or kiosks set up at the front so that attendees could interact with the digital screens without even ‘entering’ the booth per se.
  • Earned giveaways. If I had a nickel for every branded pen, ball cap or set of earbuds that were offered as straight up giveaways, I’d have enough for a family feast…at McDonalds. While I would recommend these freebies for a regular business setting, they just don’t make an impression when everyone else is doing the same. Instead, the giveaways that perked my attention were ones where I had to first complete a questionnaire, compete in a contest, interact with a product or have a conversation with an exhibitor prior to receiving my gift. The most practical freebie this year was the portable smartphone recharger – plan accordingly for next year!

Those are my suggestions for proper booth design at a glance. If you attended the show, what else did you notice that piqued your interest?

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on Friday, July 17, 2015)

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