What Makes Trade Show Content “Pop”?

Brad O'Neill - July 28, 2010

What are the best kinds of content for us to use at our live event?”

There is no one correct answer here, but what we do know is that the old world of setting out a stack of data sheets with a kindly sales engineer at a demo station is clearly not enough. If you look around at what some of the most effective tech companies are doing on trade show floors with their content, several trends are obvious. I can deduce 4 key elements at play:

  1. Attention Capture
  2. Interaction
  3. Problem Articulation
  4. Targeting

These are the four elements that go into making a booth “pop” with activity from visiting prospective customers. You don’t have to be the big platinum sponsor dominating the floor space with 30 employees to get a nice solid flow of interested folks.

Attention Capture: What makes somebody begin to come over to your booth space? It’s probably going to be visual. One very effective strategy is to use screens to rotate through content that is not merely visually interesting, but relevant. F5 Networks (shown above) does this very well by using large screens to rotate through TechValidate customer testimonials and statistics. It’s visually compelling, but also draws in the considerate prospective buyer who wants to see what others are doing with a technology.

Interaction: Demos are always great, but even simple digital hands-on environments enable a prospective customer to play with content relevant to your company. We’re keenly aware of this, and we encourage our customers to put their content pages on screens. In the pic above, you can see TechValidate content on an iPad. Many companies are starting to use iPads at shows since they invite much more tactile interaction with content of all kinds… Just remember to buy a security tether for each iPad you’re using at the show so that folks don’t “mistakenly” walk off with your device!

Problem Articulation: Getting your prospective customer to envision an opportunity or a fear even before they start to talk to you is critical. Many vendors pass this up in favor of a “feature/benefit” statement. That’s not emotional enough. I love this old Nortel (now Ciena) carve-out at their 2008 Interop booth. They invited people to explore their “Cisco Energy Tax”. It was a clever competitive invitation that filtered for relevant attendees (“Hey, I’m a Cisco shop… What’s a Cisco energy tax?”), and then sets them up to run through a short calculator with a Nortel marketing team member. Was the calculator convincing or fair? I have no idea, but I do know that this was a creative and problem-centric use of floor space.

Targeting: [Yaaawn] We’ve all seen the legion of vendor booths where you do the “slow down and pause”… You stop to look at the signage, you look at their screens… you become confused, and you keep walking.  The vendor failed to engage through a targeted exchange, on all levels. There are many ways to target an audience, from messaging all the way down to specific content. For our part, as a content marketing automation player, we always want our vendors to be able to show a prospect content that reflects exactly who they are like a mirror, using our 3rd party verified assets. At trade shows, this might mean setting up a screen for an industry or size-specific TechValidate portal (e.g. SMB, education, legal, financial services, etc.) so that attendees can browse content.  Another very effective technique is to display a small arsenal of case studies arranged by industry type then asking the attendee what industry they are in… It’s a focused conversation starter, since everybody must have an industry, and its not overly prying for you to ask straight off the bat. If you don’t have a case study for that industry? “Oh, cool, tell me more about that.” The problem area they face may well have parallels in industries you do have represented in your collateral, and your team can pivot the conversation from there.

As your marketing teams prepare for the onslaught of fall shows, think about these four elements in assembling your event content strategy.

Feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions, of course, especially if you are one of our customers looking for insight on the best ways to use your TechValidate content on your show floors.

Brad O'Neill

Brad O'Neill is President and Co-Founder of TechValidate. He brings over 15 years of experience in both enterprise and web consumer technologies to the leadership of TechValidate.

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