Industry conferences offer a valuable opportunity to make live connections with a target audience. Nearly everyone in attendance belongs to your niche audience, giving you a steady stream of potential clients strolling past your booth. Unfortunately, the competition is stiff, and sensory overload is intense at these types of events.

Make sure you’re well-prepared for both the valuable opportunities and the special challenges that conferences provide. Smart preparation is essential to make sure your booth earns its keep and generates new leads for you.

Make Your Presence Interactive

Image via Flickr by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC)

Experiences are more memorable than sales pitches. Find a way to deliver an engaging experience at your booth. Charity Water’s booth at trade shows features a Water Walk where attendees can carry 40-pound water jugs across a platform to better understand what villagers have to do when their water supply is miles from home. This activity is sure to leave visitors thinking more deeply about Charity Water’s efforts to offer safe water sources in developing nations.

The approach is intriguing not only for its experiential value, but also because it highlights the problem and not the solution. Can you feature a similar challenge at your booth that emphasizes how difficult a task is without your product or service? This technique flips the traditional sales approach and offers a thought-provoking experience for a potential client.

Start the Social Buzz

Pubcon 2016 snap chat filter

Social media is a great tool when you want to generate excitement about a coming event. You can post countdowns, show some of the sneak peeks that will be available at your booth, and hype all the happenings for months leading up to the conference. Give the event its own hashtag to encourage sharing. A branded hashtag will not only increase social buzz before the conference, but it will also offer a powerful way for people to share the experiences they have with you at the event.

Post your hashtag in a prominent place in your vendor booth so that visitors get prompted to post immediately. Consider incorporating special extras as well, such as a Snapchat geofilter centered around your area that will allow people to post pictures with your own overlay. Encourage participation in social posts by holding a contest for the best snaps from the event.

Create Sleek Content

Conference attendees are in a hurry. They want to visit as many booths as they can in a limited amount of time. Make sure you have a diverse offering of informative material so that interested parties can pick up what they need quickly and peruse the details at their leisure. Keep your brochures simple and clear so that visitors can quickly decide which ones will meet their needs. Instead of using complex software names for headings, highlight your primary features. Newcomers won’t recognize the name of your product, but they will respond to a phrase such as “Simplified Classroom Scheduling.”

Don’t shy away from more complex content. You can include entire case studies, marketing decks, and other forms of digital content on branded flash drives that double as an attractive giveaway. Keep a few folders or booklets with detailed information in printed form on hand so that your sales team can offer heftier information packets as well. The key is to make your sales pitch stand tall in printed form, since many attendees will move on before they hear the live version.

Pick the Right Giveaways

Most everyone at a conference is looking to fill their swag bag. Make sure your table offers something with real value. Wearables are an outstanding option because they’ll help spread the word about your booth, if for no other reason than giving others a reason to grab a light-up lanyard, too.

You’ll also make a big impression with items that are immediately useful. Think beyond the pen. Instead, opt for items such as chilled water in branded bottles, mini first-aid kits for tired attendees who could already use the aspirin, or small snack bags. Place a company sticker on bananas and apples or install a popcorn machine at your booth, naturally serving up the treat in bags with your logo. Give visitors what they want and more will soon arrive.

Maintain a Full Schedule

Do more than simply stand around your booth waiting to engage passers-by. Conference attendees hear plenty of sales pitches, and they may give you a wide berth if they sense they’ll get dragged into a long conversation. Instead, schedule short presentations that offer all information from a sales pitch in a more generalized format. Host product demonstrations every hour, periodically show short videos, and include assorted giveaways and contests.

Post your schedule prominently so that attendees will see the next event at a glance, as well as a countdown to the occasion. If something exciting is coming up in only a few minutes — as it nearly always should be — passers-by will be more inclined to linger and see what you’ll present.

Form Alliances

The purpose of marketing at a conference is to reach the niche audience members attending the event. You’ll find a wealth of vendors offering complementary products and services who are vying for the same customers as you. Look for those who are not direct competitors, but who will appeal to the same client base. If you’re promoting your line of organic baby food at a parenting conference, approach the exhibitors who are selling all-natural soaps and reusable diapers. You’ll find that you’re both perfectly positioned to recommend the other, doubling your impact.

Alliances like these may extend beyond the conference if you find an outstanding success rate sharing customers. Don’t overlook your opportunities to make business contacts at conferences. Marketing tricks that work on the floor may extend to other types of cross-promotion in the future, such as blogs, social media, and more.

Don’t simply staff a table with bland brochures at your next conference. Create an eye-catching booth that will help your company stand out from the slew of competitors. Think ahead so that you have time to create the perfect content for your promotional needs and visitors will get what they need from your booth.