Theming, Costumes, and Celebrity Guests: How to Create a Complete Trade Show Experience

By nature, humans are social animals and are wired to make connections with one another. The most magical thing about face-to-face marketing is the genuine interaction and relationships we make that may not be as prominent through other marketing methods.

Through trade shows, you’re introducing people to the faces behind the brand and etching memorable experiences into people’s minds.

When working with clients, our priority is to help them win over their ideal customers. From the bigger picture down to the smaller details, creating a complete experience affects how attendees will remember your brand. The engagements, attire, and giveaway items are also essential components for establishing memories.

Here are four complete booth experiences that won the hearts of attendees:

1. Kellogg’s®

Maybe it’s just us, but back in the day, school lunches were our least favorite meal. But when Kellogg’s® School Nutrition division attended SNA-ANC 2019, they changed our minds with a pop-up café experience that makes school lunch fun.

With the theme, “Menu Explorers,” Kellogg’s® wanted to encourage attendees to try new foods and change the perception of school lunches. To do this, Kellogg’s went with a pop-up café theme that would promote the Morningstar® and Eggo® brands. The booth featured astroturf flooring, windows, a prep area that would distribute samples, and a seating area with tables and stools that allowed for conversation and sales to occur.

Each day of the show, Kellogg’s® showcased food samples from one of the two brands they were promoting. One day one, Morningstar® served plant-based “chicken nuggets” with a sauce station for dipping. To cement brand recognition, booth staff wore Morningstar® t-shirts. On day two, Eggo® sampled confetti pancakes, and of course, booth staff wore Eggo® t-shirts. On both days, a professional chef prepped and served samples to attendees.

Additional engagements complimented the food sampling engagement. At every show, Tony the Tiger makes an appearance and takes photos with attendees, which can be customized and sent to their e-mail or phones. A “Plinko” game allowed attendees to sharpen their knowledge on nutrition, and a chalkboard engagement asked, “What are your students’ favorite foods?”

Tying the booth’s theme into engagements that appeal to the five senses is an excellent way to create memories with your attendees. When attendees leave your space, there should be no question as to what your brand is trying to portray.

2. AccessData

AccessData’s booth went all that way at ILTACON 2019. This M*A*S*H themed 10×10 space didn’t just look the part; the team tending the exhibit dressed in olive green or camo print while others opted to get into character. Yes, HawkEye and Radar made an appearance.

The cherry on top was including a character from the actual show. Jamie Farr made an appearance on the first day to do a meet and greet with attendees, which was a big draw to the brand’s space.

Photo provided by AccessData

Before the show began, the set-up team was shocked by the realistic flooring printed to resemble a sandy, rocky terrain. As props, the “Wayfinder” sign and medium-sized rocks were included to help set the scene. AccessData placed M*A*S*H themed giveaway items on their counter that was decked out in retro Christmas lights, such as cigars, olive green notebooks, and camo printed pens.

The M*A*S*H theme paid off to AccessData, as this 10×10 took home the “Best Booth” award from ILTACON for this unique, complete experience.

3. World Fuel

Field Based Operators (FBOs) are known for their accommodating spaces that provide visitors with a place to sleep, enjoy delicious meals, work and meet with prospects once they’ve de-planed. World Fuel’s “trade show within a trade show” at NBAA-NACE 2018 was not only a spectacular structure. It housed meeting space for FBOs and included multiple areas for entertainment and hospitality.

This 50′ – x 150′ booth featured a branded, large overhead sign, a deck structure for VIP meetings, custom carpet inlays, vibrant graphics, and 24 small meeting pods for FBOs to meet with prospects. To help attendees grasp the reach of World Fuel, an interactive, touchscreen globe created by Pufferish displayed information about FBOs alongside their corresponding location. Just like an FBO, the architecture and interactive technology emanated a sleek, clean feel.

To complete the look and feel, World Fuel had a variety of entertainment within the booth. A magician wowed attendees with tricks, multiple bands performed beside an open bar, and heavy appetizers were served. Also, World Fuel gave away lavish items such as bottles of champagne, headphones, and designer sunglasses.

When it comes to exhibiting, take a page from World Fuel’s book. Your exhibit should mirror the experience a prospect will have with your brand when they become a customer.

4. Scot Forge:

Photo provided by Nth Degree

When Scot Forge exhibits, they’re often considered “the best at the show.”

For each show, Scot Forge cleverly themes their booth to fit the products and messages they’re promoting while developing brand recognition in their industry. For the 2019 Space Symposium, Scot Forge chose an iconic theme that grabbed the attention of attendees: the classic Atari video game, Space Invaders!

The booth featured graphics Space Invader themed graphics, with the Scot Forge logo replacing the space ship that takes down enemies. Displays and tables were wrapped in a plaid pattern to incorporate Scot Forge’s branding into the design. Booth staffers tied up the look by wearing plaid jackets in the brand’s colors.

The big draw for Scot Forge was an engagement developed by Exhibit Concepts to complete the booth. What’s a Space Invaders’ theme without the chance to play the game? That’s right – we developed an 8-bit Space Invaders game with the Scot Forge logo as the protagonist, taking down enemy space ships as it scrolls across the screen. When attendees won or lost, a custom screen appeared that tracked the score.

When it comes to theming, Scot Forge are model exhibitors. When choosing a theme for your brand, it’s imperative that the look, feel, and the message isn’t lost.

5. Exhibit Concepts

All aboard! Our museum team attended AAM 2019 to showcase our work with the Bradford Railroad Museum. Before the event began, our marketing staff set the scene for attendees by mailing a box that included a whistle and “ticket” attendees could use to sign-up to win an Amtrak ticket, valued at $500 to any place their heart desired. A trip to your favorite vacation spot by train allows you to take in the sights stress-free as they roll by, unlike driving or flying in an airplane.

The backdrop for the conference appeared as a train station, with bold fonts and graphics of the work we completed for the Bradford Railroad Museum. We created a colorful registration table out of vintage suitcases where visitors could drop off their registration “ticket” or sign-up to win.

Even better, our team dressed as train conductors to complete the theme and look of this booth.

When we exhibit, we make sure to take a lot of time to think about what we’re promoting, what the theme will be, and how we will market and achieve our goals. Creating a little mystery and intrigue for our brand helps us stand out against the competition and forge relationships with attendees.

Thinking about a theme for your next booth or event? Let us help you dream up an experience that will take your brand to new heights.


Subscribe to Exhibit Concepts Blog

More to explore