What are the best ways to stand out at a conference? After all, the whole point of exhibiting at a conference is to stand out. And if everyone tries to stand out, won’t you just drown in visuals and noise? For some, conferences are a necessary evil. For others, it is a major highlight of the year.
A conference, just like life, is what you make it. While you should, as a bare minimum, always have a banner with your company name and logo, there are many other ways to make yourself noticed – and remembered.
Some of the ways to stand out at a conference are not always intuitive. Some are even counter-intuitive, like going for a smaller and more casual look than your competitors. Let’s have a look at some of the ways you can stand out at a conference.
1: Start in advance
The actual conference might be the main event, but there is still work to be done before the everything kicks off. Make sure you engage with the other brands and conference attendees on social media – and use the right #hashtags.
Contact the writers from relevant trade publications and share any news you might have with them. Research your competitors by seeing how they presented themselves at previous conferences. Prepare accordingly, by making sure you stand out from the crowd.
One way of making sure you prepare the right swag is to have the conference attendees vote on what they want. Not only will this get them engaged, but you will also avoid wasting money on the wrong swag.
2: Invest in the right trade show display
It is easy to say that you should get a trade show display that makes you “stand out” at a conference. However, “standing out” is not always about having the biggest and most brightly colored trade show display. If you have done your research, you will know what your competitors plan on doing.
Do the opposite. If they have something big and fancy, make something small and approachable. Big and fancy can often come across as too “salesy”. Yes, selling and marketing is usually the main point of exhibiting at a conference – but it can get exhausting.
Something more relaxed just might be what lures the attendees in. Of course, small and approachable should not mean boring and forgettable. Use what you find during your research to invest in the right trade show display.
3: Have the right swag
If you have asked the attendees in advance what they would like to see at the conference, you know what to stock. If not, there are always the classics to fall back on. Pens work because everyone needs them and they tend to change hands.
Folders and notepads go nicely with the pens. Bags are always handy because attendees need to lug all the swag around. Cups and mugs will also last for a long time. USB flash drives are not only practical but will likely see a lot of use.
The more usable the swag is, the longer it will be kept by the attendees. If you have the extra budget, there are also shorter-lived swag to consider: badge holders, stickers, lanyards, and brochures.
4: Go for the unusual swag
One way to make sure you stand out at a conference is to have something unusual. While pens and mugs are classic, they are also somewhat unoriginal. Try to include something fun, interesting or quirky in your swag collection.
A stress ball, brightly colored headphones, fun balloons, cool laptop skins, Rubik’s cube, a Bluetooth tracker for your keys. Make sure it is useful, so people keep it for a long time. Maybe a cable manager? Everyone hates tangled cables. A power bank to make sure that attendees do not run out of juice at the conference.
5: Do a demo, demo what you do
Showing is always better than telling. Even if you have perfected your elevator pitch, a good demonstration of your product or service will work better. If you have a product, attendees will love being able to see it, touch it, and try it. If you have a service, give the attendees a little taste of what they can expect as your clients.
Make sure you have a phone, tablet or laptop on hand to showcase any presentations or videos of what you do. Also, use proper headphones to record your voice properly. Even better if attendees can take a picture of your product, which they can then share on social media.
If you have a portable demo, then even better. You can take it around the conference and show it to as many people as possible, rather than having to be anchored to your booth or exhibit.
6: Make a contest
Appeal to the competitive side of the attendees by putting on a contest. A good competition is great for several reasons. First off, everyone expects to take home bags full of free swag from a conference. Because it is free, it also does not have a lot of perceived value.
The things which are won in a contest will naturally have more perceived value. Things with perceived value will be kept for longer. Secondly, a contest will give the conference attendees a reason to hang out around your booth. It will make them engage with your brand. If you make the competition interesting enough, you can be sure it will be talked about later on at the conference.
Attendees taking part in your competition might even like it so much that they tell other attendees to pay you a visit to compete themselves. A great competition will make you stand out at a conference and be remembered.
7: Have fun and be creative
Depending on what industry you are in, conferences can range from exciting to incredibly boring. If you find yourself in the latter category, use it to your advantage. This is a great opportunity to stand out. The attendees should have a good time, and so should you. Tell jokes. Dress up. Start conversations.
People do not buy from brands, people buy from people. Do not be afraid to engage the attendees with something that does not necessarily relate directly to your product or service. You will have ample opportunity to let attendees know what you do once you have drawn them in.
Make sure your team is having fun as well, as good energy is contagious.
8: Don’t be afraid to stunt
People will be talked about and remember you with a good creative stunt. This is where you can get really creative with your brand and message. Take some inspiration from popular marketing campaigns that went viral, and apply some of the elements to a conference.
Fixed, an app that fights parking tickets for its users, employed a team of people to leave a message about their solution on top of people’s actual parking fines. A company that had penguins as their logo actually managed to bring in two penguins to promote them at a conference!
The possibilities are endless. Why not dress up your vehicle and start making impressions early?
9: Scents & Sounds
Often, it can be easy to get caught up in the visuals. And whilst banners, signs, and merchandise will definitely get your brand seen, you will be competing with a lot of visuals. Why not create a multi-sensory experience for the attendees by appealing to their other senses?
Pick some music that goes well with your brand and message, and have it running in the background. Not elevator music, but something that will make people associate it with you.
Scents are also powerful stimuli. Why not take a page out of the real estate agent’s handbook and use the scent of freshly baked cakes? As long as your sounds are kept at a reasonable level, and the scent is not overpowering, it will definitely make you stand out at a conference.
10: Provide some much-needed rest
Conferences can be exhausting. Even though they mainly consist of walking around, people will eventually get tired. Provide them with a space to rest their feet, if only for a moment. Then use that moment to connect with them on a human level. Offer them a cup of coffee and let them charge their phone. Give them a reason to hang out with you.
Use a combination of all of the above tips to make sure you leave an impression on them. Give them a reason to talk about you later on.
Not only did you provide them with some much-needed rest. There was some great music playing in the background. The place smelled nice. There were some really cool gadgets. There was a fun quiz to take. It was a good experience.
Ready to exhibit?
Hopefully, some of these tips have hit home, and you have had a genius idea you want to try out at your next conference. Get yourself a banner, a sign, and some swag, or why not check out some of the more quirky options?