According to Jim Gilmore, author of “The Experience Economy” he states: “When it comes to exhibitors, in general, the better booths confine themselves to a singular focus, a tightly constructed theme that actively engages guests in activities”

1. Create immersive themes.

As wholesale brands seek ways to expand audiences at trade shows, experiential marketing is something to consider. Experiential marketing can be defined as messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space. People crave experiences, especially in a face-to-face environment. Attendees want to feel connected to a brand and leave the booth feeling good about spending time there.

The exhibitor’s job is to get inside the attendees’ heads to fully understand what will connect with them. Creating engaging elements in a booth just because they are fun is not necessarily a key to successful engagement. If the activities in the booth are not consistent with the products and company message, people may still remember the booth, but it will not necessarily be for what the company has to offer – rather merely for the fact the booth was a fun place to hang out.

Note: Only 46 percent of exhibitors offer interactive product displays, while CEIR research finds 78 percent of attendees use these resources when available. There are many ways to embrace and bring an experience that ties to the product.

Admittedly, it can be easier to bring the experience to the show floor if your product is easy to integrate into an experience. An example of this would be if your product was a beverage and you were conducting a taste test on the floor and comparing them with other brands. Or, a shoe manufacturing like Nike, where the attendee could slip on a pair of shoes and engage in an experience that demonstrates the Nike brand, comfort, style, etc.

Today’s customers expect more from an “IRL” (in real life) event than a pile of business cards, product brochures or promotional items (see: branded stress ball). They want to actually experience something.

According to the Event Marketing Institute, 77% of brands view experiential marketing as a core component of their marketing strategy. Done right, a branded experience drives loyalty, recognition, and builds credibility.

2. Tell a visual story.

Your story on the exhibit floor should reflect your marketing goals and also be in alignment with your branding. Live experiences can certainly enhance your story line. Ask yourself if product demonstrations would indeed enhance your customers understanding of your product or would a short video bring more meaning to your audience. Like all good stories there is a beginning, middle and an end. Questions you may want to consider:

  • What is your brand’s story?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke with your experience?
  • How can you showcase your brand’s unique style?
  • How can media enhance that experience?
  • Is there an opportunity to teach visitors something new? 

3. Tell a story through interactions

Design your booth with interactions. These interactions will be a guide for the attendee and provide significant touch-points along the way. Show them, don’t tell them. Connect your audience through an immersive tactile way. Examples include:

  • Interactive Product Displays
  • Gamification
  • Simulation Environments
  • Multi-media, VR Experience

Instead of talking at your audience, consider your next event as an opportunity to create a face-to-face branded “experience. Experiential marketing helps brands explain how their product/service works. Roughly 65% of consumers say that live demos give them a better understanding of a product.

The experience should include a pre-show invitation. Make sure your audience is aware and can find you on the exhibit floor. In the weeks and months ahead, make sure you use social media to promote event registration and generate buzz. Your experience as an exhibitor will be far more enhanced because your responses will be greater. And finally, post show activities including “Thank You for Stopping By” will help to reinforce the attendee’s memories along with the information exchange on the trade show floor.


Larry is Owner and Principal Partner at Star. With a background in Industrial Design and over 40 years in the exhibit industry, Larry manages Star’s team of consultants and their customer relationships. You can reach him at