Building your booth presence is the fourth instalment of the Sponsoring Community Events series aimed at helping companies get to grips with sponsoring community events and getting the most out of them. This post covers some of the things that you should be thinking about when you are planning on having a booth at an event.

Throughout this, I’m going to use my friends Jumping Rivers and their first stand for illustrative purposes as they did a pretty outstanding job.

Stand

Your stand or booth says what kind of business you are. The design, the text, the quality, everything should align to your key message about who you are. For some this is a specific product, others it’s the company. I would usually advise against multiple banners showcasing different messages as this prevents people from making a snap judgement to find out more. It becomes an exercise of thought and you don’t want that!

I would also recommend a highly visual, low text booth. Any text you do put on things should be at the top as tables, podiums, and you will all get in the way of text in the lower half of banners and stands.

Jumping Rivers' stand - the text gets blocked but you really notice the logo
Jumping Rivers’ stand – the text gets blocked but you really notice the logo

In the Jumping Rivers’ stand, vital info like the website was hidden as it wasn’t in the top half of their banners. This is their most substantive thing to change and learn from, although it did have the happy side effect of people asking the magic question “so what do you do?”

Text needs to be bold, and high contrast so that people can read it from far away. A good test is the laptop squint test: put it on the screen and see how far back you can go before it’s difficult to read. The further back the better!

Keeping your booth low on text also means it’s more likely to be valid for a long time. Especially for small businesses and startups, things change and you want to keep your costs as low as possible so redoing your stand every few months is undesirable.

When you’re thinking about all these things, here’s the minimum “kit list” you’ll need:

When picking out your kit, give some thought to the transportation and setup. If only one person has to put it up, don’t go for something ginormous. If someone has to carry it on public transport, go for something minimal. If the person putting it up is short, don’t make it too tall.

Being on-site also means you usually have a laptop, the packaging/containers for your stand, boxes of swag etc. You should think about where you can store these. The usual answer is behind your stand, but it’s also useful to think about storage or access in the podium.

The backs of the two podiums - one is messy but convenient!
The backs of the two podiums – one is messy but convenient!

The Jumping Rivers podium had a completely wrap around the banner, whereas the plain ones available from the conference had a number of internal shelves. The internal shelves came in very handy for putting a ready batch of swag for refilling the stand and gave us a place to stash phones to keep things less cluttered up top.

The final thing you want to think about is wear and tear. These things get scuffs, spillages, and other assorted little bits of damage over time. I would recommend avoiding white for your booth as it most readily shows up damage and thus reduces the lifespan of your stand.

Calls to action

I started off by saying that your booth is about one message – you need something that you want people to do about that message. This could be to talk to you, sign up to something, start a trial, follow you on twitter. You should think about this and align your materials to suit.

The primary goal of most exhibitors is to have a conversation with each attendee, giving them the opportunity to pitch and build a connection. “Conversations” are where you get to find out a bunch of what someone does, their pain points, and hopefully can give a strong way in which you can help them or can provide them with a recommendation as to who can.

Data collection

Having a booth is usually about two things, in the end, the great “conversations” and data capture.

For people you have a conversation with, you want to give something substantive like your personal card and, ideally, get one of theirs. These are the best people to capture data on (i.e. from their cards) as you have the strongest link to them from the event. Try to capture as much info after the conversation as you can about the conversation as these are the people most likely to convert quickly.

Then there’s more general data capture. You can’t talk to everyone, not everyone has a card, and some people don’t want to talk to you right there and then. Having some sort of way to capture email addresses and key info for these people means you can do some sort of follow-up activity.

To achieve this data capture, people often use a competition to gain info. This can work pretty well. Alternatively just asking people to fill in something can work out reasonably well.

Leads capture with a contentious question
Leads capture with a contentious question

Jumping Rivers made a survey and had a tablet to allow people to fill it in. They did two things very well with this – they asked a contentious question (what was the top city in Scotland) and they made giving the email address optional.

As someone who has received many a call after an event, I can say that I dislike intensely dislike a vendor using the captured details to launch a cold calling campaign. However, I know a number of companies who say this has a reasonably high engagement rate and is thus worth it – it’s up to you whether you want to be that company.

You should most definitely plan in advance how you will process the data and how you will use it for best effect. The longer you delay after the event, the less potent your message is.

Show your product

There really is nothing like showing your skills or your product with some sort of active display to attract people and help convince them that you know your stuff. If you can invest in a TV or a screen and show something, then this helps generate more traffic to your booth and allows you to demo to people at your stand.

A realtime dashboard built in Shiny
A realtime dashboard built in Shiny

Jumping Rivers used their survey as the source for their realtime dashboard. They were able to demonstrate their skills and show what they know! This worked out really well.

Swag

We talked about swag previously in the context of being organised. Swag that goes on your booth should be high quality and interesting. That being said, you can’t go wrong with a decent pen!

Why should you bother investing in swag?

  1. People are less likely to visit an empty booth so anyone lured by swag acts as a lure for others
  2. Anything with your name that gets distributed out to others is a little bit of advertising
  3. Anything people keep reminds them of a conversation of you, or your stand, which gives you an edge with them
Unique and eye catching swag really works
Unique and eye-catching swag really works. If you want one email [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected])

Jumping Rivers did these fabulous drinks coasters in a variety of styles, they became great conversation pieces throughout the day and the range of colours made people pause at the stand. There’s one thing guaranteed to make someone else to come to your stand – and that’s someone already there so the deliberating people really helped booth traffic!

Takeaways

Not everything on your booth has to be high-value swag. Having a number of fliers or informational materials gives people something tangible to take away about your product or services. These can be waved under bosses noses to show the value of the event or the value of you. Make sure you have a number of things that people can take away to read later.

You should also make sure you have tons of business cards. How many conversations will you have over a few days? At least two dozen. Your memory of conversations won’t be as good as the other person’s because they’ll have had fewer. By giving them a card, they can email you with the information they want from you. These people will be your warmest leads and they’ll happily provide you with enough info to keep the conversation going.

Know the agenda

Knowing the agenda means you can keep the most amount of time for talking to people by not scheduling calls during breaks, by getting food before the main lunch period etc. This maximises the benefit for you.

You should also try to make sure you can get to see a few sessions – I got this tip from Matt Aldridge – as these give you things to discuss with people and show that you’re interested in the content.

Building your booth presence (SCE p4)

What do you think?