Engage, Educate, Entertain: 8 Branded Experiences that Speak to Event and Trade Show Attendees

Blues.io exhibit at a marketing event
February 9, 2024
Reading Time: 12 minutes

A good marketing event or trade show booth design draws in prospective buyers. But a WINNING event provides an experience that encourages them to stay and creates a lasting impression that will make them want to do business with you.

Traditional giveaways and gimmicky games can turn off serious buyers or, even worse, give attendees the impression that you have nothing new to offer. 2024 is the year that brands are getting serious about upleveling their branded experiences to draw in customers and show their creativity, innovation, and all-star products and staff. Here’s how you can be one of them.

Bring in a star attraction

Your human capital is often your greatest asset at events and trade shows. All too often, the people staffing trade show booths are staring down at their devices. Don’t have that booth. Elevate the experience you offer by creating deliberate plans to get out, engage, and add a human element.

Does your team have a dynamic, charismatic person whose role is to oversee the flow of people in and out of your booth? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to create meaningful human connections. Having a member of your team (or a professional you bring in) in an emcee-style role can help make your exhibit unforgettable.

Another way to add that human touch is by showcasing talent. Bring in an industry star or a local celebrity for a meet and greet, lecture, or other hands-on engagement. This type of mini event reinforces the idea that you’re connected and innovative, while also ensuring that you’re offering content showgoers can’t get anywhere else.

Create an oasis to escape the hustle

Simple, open, and airy designs with comfortable seating where prospects can sit and have a conversation is a dominant trend you’ll see in 2024 branded experiences.

Think about the last event or trade show you attended: walking miles every day in large venues or dealing with the challenges of navigating crowded, compact venues. Ticking off a long list of goals and objectives all day is tiring.

Create an oasis where people can take a break — and forge a connection with you at the same time. Comfortable seating, a water bottle, Wi-Fi, and a charging station can go a long way toward refreshing your prospective buyers and their devices. Ambient lighting can help shift the mood toward calm, pleasant thoughts.

When brands show that they take their guest experience seriously and start by meeting basic needs, it can build trust to leverage into deeper conversations about how the organization can meet other, more important needs long-term.

Add a splash of fun with games and simulations

Games can seem like a gimmick, but with most shows offering little interactivity, attendees can feel like they’re beating off a swarm of salespeople diving in for their information. Lighten the mood and invite prospective buyers to engage with your brand on a more relaxed basis as a way to open the conversation.

Choosing the right games is crucial. Trivia games, golf and racing simulations, and other options can serve as connection points — disguised as general entertainment. It’s important to ensure that the quality is at the right level, and that what you’re offering is a fit for your audience.

Even better, build a custom game experience into your branding and marketing for an event. Bespoke games that align with your brand can educate, entertain, and engage. Industry-relevant simulations, interactive trivia with prizes that appeal to your audience, or competitions such as drone races can engage audiences and get them fired up. The goal is to find the intersection between audience relevancy and fresh takes.

Get hands-on with your demos

Offering digital demos of your products and services is a great way to introduce audiences to what you offer, while making the most of your booth footprint. But imagine what would happen if you added a hands-on component.

For example, one B2B corporate design firm created a simple app that showcases how a hanging element can transform customers’ lobbies. An interactive touch screen allows users to experiment with the placement, colors, shape, and more to see the impact it could have on their lobby design. Digital looping videos, virtual reality, and augmented reality are all strategies that can help raise awareness and ignite a curiosity that leads to deeper exploratory conversations.

Create an experiential learning space

How much of your event or exhibit is dedicated to hands-on exploration and learning for your visitors? Thematic design is taking many shows to the next level by allowing guests to experience elements of a brand’s story in a deeper way.

One coffee company created a bespoke room leveraging sound, video, and even strategic scents to transport guests to their coffee plantations and bring their sourcing, roasting, and careful varietal selection to life. Linking brand storytelling and exploration through deeper engagement helps bring the customer experience to life.

Use projection mapping

In-person events offer the ability to share powerful, creative visuals that catch the eye and draw the visitor in. 3D projection mapping can help make the most of your space. For example, project abstract or moving shapes into the vertical area above your exhibit, onto support pillars that abut your location, or on accent walls to create a more dynamic visual appeal that can be engaging. Projection, lighting, and sound can all help to create the ambiance you’re looking for within your trade show space.

Reward existing customers and connections

While the goal of events and trade shows is often to gain net-new business, it’s important to remember that your existing customers, newsletter subscribers, and warm leads may be in attendance as well.

A branded experience that’s geared toward that audience can deepen those relationships and show your appreciation. Reach out to your contacts in advance and consider offering them a customized experience, gift, or amenity when they arrive.

Embrace the power of after hours

During the daytime, there’s significant competition for prospective buyers’ time and attention. A smart move is hosting an after-hours event for existing customers, prospective customers, and high-value targets where they can mingle with your staff and VIPs. The goal is to create a branded experience for connections to form and organic conversations to happen that can accelerate the sales process.

Choose an interesting location. A high-end bowling alley, experiential restaurant, or art gallery could be appropriate choices depending on your location. Have clear goals and a well-briefed staff, and set the tone for interactions that are inspirational and engaging.

By making the most of your time after hours, you’ll create the largest experiential impact you can.

Next steps

If you’re headed back to events and trade shows in 2024, spend some of your strategic planning time answering the question “What branded experiences can we offer our visitors?” From brand-inspired games to exclusive after hours events, the options to customize are endless. Consider what your target audience needs that they’re unlikely to get anywhere else, and then deliver brand-aligned experiences they’re unable to forget.

Learn more about Exhibits and Event Solutions from Star.

Read more about companies are bringing their brands to life across in-person experiences, from trade shows and events to retail spaces and corporate offices in the 2024 Trend Report: 6 Marketing Best Practices for In-Person Impact.


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