How Not to Organize a Conference Booth — a Beginners Guide

If you expect to read about our spectacular failure, you can stop reading now. If you are an experienced trade-show animal, maybe you won’t learn anything new but reading about other people’s mistakes might be quite entertaining. However, if you are preparing a company booth for the first time, the following list might come in handy. We’ve learnt it the hard way ;)

Here is our story. We became a gold sponsor of Boiling Frogs. It was the first time we sponsored such a big event and also the first time we were to have to have our very own booth. As you can imagine, without the hands-on experience it was quite a challenge. We did a lot of research and used our combined superpowers (Marketing and Data Science) to come up with some cool ideas on how to promote Tooploox in a fun and engaging way. I think we did quite well but obviously there were plenty of things that went wrong. Here is a short guide highlighting what not to do if you want your booth to be a tremendous success (not JUST a success).

1. Don’t be shy!

If you don’t have a big budget to order a fancy booth, you can choose a simpler and less expensive solution like a huge roll-up. We had a roll-up with our logo… and that’s it! We thought it would be enough in terms of branding. We had a TV with a self-driving car demo, a foosball table with Foosbalytics (check out how Foosballytics works!) equipment installed but NO OTHER branded elements. The thing is, if you want everyone to see your brand, put your logo everywhere you can. In the event of last minute decision and too many branded pieces, you can always remove some. It’s easier to do it that magically produce more branded pieces on the fly.

2. Don’t give away gadgets!

It’s good to decide on some giveaway rules BEFORE the event. We didn’t. We gave our bags, mugs and stuff randomly. Some people just took them right from our table. Some received them from us for playing foosball at our booth. There was absolutely NO consistency there. Surely you can do it better. Just decide what your goal is: if you want to collect emails, motivate people to take some action at your booth or simply promote your brand. Just stay consistent and make sure everyone at the booth knows your giveaway policy.

3. Never assume that employees know all about the company.

It’s one of those things that seem to be obvious, but if you ask about details, everyone gets confused (Try to explain in detail how photosynthesis works.). Conference attendees will ask questions, so prepare some materials for everyone at the booth. Otherwise, I can guarantee they won’t know if we have any job openings, what our iOS teams do or if we have we have any projects in ClojureScript.

4. If there is no schedule, don’t expect people to show up!

Events don’t organize themselves in a mysterious and spontaneous way. We were smart enough to create a schedule for logistics. We included details like a list of what needs to be delivered from our office to the venue, who will carry it, etc. The schedule we didn’t have, however, was the one for the booth. Two of our colleagues ended up trapped there for almost entire day… If you want everyone to survive the conference, make sure you have a schedule for literally everything!

via GIPHY

5. Don’t be boring!

I’m aware that people usually learn from their own mistakes but hopefully you can learn something from ours. Good luck during your next conference or tradeshow!

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