Published February 2019
Updated September 2021
We know the sheer amount of prep work that goes into preparing for an upcoming tradeshow. There’s the timely matter of sorting out logistics: booking flights, hotels, your booth reservation and more. Then all of the necessary equipment and items: signage, electronics, marketing materials and more. After weeks or even months of preparation, it’s fair to feel like you’ve put in your due effort to make this trade show appearance a success.
While a beautiful, strategically set up exhibit, high-quality product demos and a well-informed, high-energy staff are all ways to get ahead of your rivals, there is another trick that just might be what puts you over the top: trade show games.
By offering unique and entertaining trade show contests and games to attendees, you’ll bring the right kind of energy into your exhibit, while also attracting people who may not have naturally been interested in your company.
Most importantly, you want to bring the kind of energy that makes people feel comfortable, not overwhelmed. One of the biggest values of the trade show game is lead generation, which is best accomplished through the gathering of contact information. You need to get people excited and then immediately transition into talking business.
Your trade show activity is about bringing as many people as you can into your exhibit. This is why incorporating game ideas for trade shows can be a fantastic way to create some buzz, other than of course your trade show booth.
But choose games that mesh well with what you’re offering to potential customers and clients. And if in the end, the option is between investing in a flashy game or investing in a solid product demo, stick with the product demo. The majority of trade show attendees realize that the game is just the hook, and they will definitely sniff out a booth that is all flash and no substance.
Furthermore, you don’t want to make a game so good or engrossing that people don’t pay attention to your ultimate pitch. Make sure to keep it short, so people don’t become overly focused on the game and fail to notice anything else in the exhibit.
Plan Games and Contests with Engagement in Mind
- Create games and contests that revolve around contestants inspecting, using or answering questions about your product or service.
- Connect your contest to the theme of your trade show campaign or to your brand’s image.
- Prizes are the number-one reason an attendee participates in a trade show contest or game, and prizes cost money. Make sure you factor them into your budget.
- If you plan on having in-booth activities, you will need more staff to help run them. Take the additional staff into account when budgeting for your trade show.
- Keep budget constraints in mind, and don’t sacrifice exhibit design because you overspent on your trade show contest because smartly-designed trade show displays can help lure in prospective contestants.
Now that you understand the strategy behind trade show games, here are a few ideas for your next event.
The miniature golf course can have its own signage or branding. You can also use the game to win prizes, which incentivizes people to interact with your booth.
Make prizes relevant to you and your brand in some way so that it’s more memorable and ties together nicely. For instance, golf balls, golf shirts, golf gloves that have your logo printed on them.
Golf is one of the most universally loved and recognized games around the world, so incorporating a golf-related activity into your trade show exhibit is a great way to attract passersby.
If you host a golfing activity in-booth, you will be amazed at just how fast your exhibit will become “the place to be” on the show floor. Your booth will be filled with attendees looking to hone their putts, improve their drives and drop a few strokes from their game all in a casual and easy environment.
Tips for Golf Activities:
Call your game Prize Putt.
Putting greens are an expensive but worthwhile activity.You can never go wrong with a putting green because it is the easiest and simplest golf activity to incorporate into your booth.
Like a putting green, driving range simulators take participants from the trade show floor to the links and allow them to practice their skills.
- Virtual golf games are increasing in popularity because they allow players to get the feel of a day out on the links without having to chase down errant balls.
Trade Show #Hashtag Prize Game
Using a brand specific hashtag to host a trade show game on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is an easy and fun way to get a large number of attendees to notice your brand both on and off the trade show floor.
Remember, when developing your trade show hashtag prize game use the following steps:
- Select a catchy, brand specific hashtag. Keep it short, simple, and easy to remember.
- Use your hashtag early. The sooner your brand incorporates the trade show game hashtag the better.
- Be consistent. Don’t start using your hashtag and then forget about it. Continue to use it frequently before, during, and after the trade show.
- Incorporate the hashtag into all of your social media posts, as well as on your trade show marketing materials such as banners, promo items, business cards.
Once you’ve created and promoted your hashtag, provide these rules to participating attendees:
- Participants must follow your brand on social media.
- The participant displaying your hashtag must keep it visible throughout the duration of the show.
- Prizes will be awarded throughout the show. (And then follow up quickly by posting the winners-- exciting others to play).
- Winners will be notified that they’ve won via a private message.
Trivia With a Twist
This is a classic trade show game with a modern twist! In this modernized version of trivia questions, use social media to promote and ask trivia questions about your industry and brand. The trivia question can relate to your brand’s product, the industry, or can be completely random!
Here are the rules to Trivia with a Twist:
- Participants must follow your brand on social media.
- Participants must respond to your trivia questions by tweeting at your brand’s handle with the correct answer or replying to your social post.
- Once an hour, a winner will be randomly selected from those participants that answered correctly.
- Winners will be notified that they have won via a private message.
Or choose a traditional trivia contest to offer attendees. This is one of the more common ideas used at trade shows, and it can be very effective. It gives people the opportunity to show off their knowledge in front of their colleagues.
If you first focus on giving that person a moment of glory, they usually then give you the courtesy of some attention to what you and your company provide.
Placing the convention attendees’ interests first can always open the conversation up in a way that’s less aggressive. If they answer a tough question correctly, and then get rewarded with a prize… you may have just made their day. They will associate that with your brand.
Spin & Win
This long time favorite often gets overlooked because it’s been around a long time in an industry where everyone wants the latest and greatest. But don’t snub it just yet. In the right situation, it can get results and increase engagement in your booth.
Don’t make spinning the wheel the only involvement, however. For a chance at spinning, the attendee needs to fill out a lead card or give you a business card. Don’t make the process daunting, but ask for enough information to determine whether the visitor is a prospect or not.
And don’t make it all about getting stuff for free, either. Instead of each space on the wheel being some random prize or premium item, consider making most of the spaces represent discounts or upgrades on your product. This solves the problem of clogging up your trade show booth with people who are only interested in getting something for nothing. You can still put an interesting prize or two on the wheel to add an excitement factor.
For the best results from a game like this, position a staffer near the wheel, inviting people to participate. Some people need a friendly nudge to get started. And having that staffer there allows him or her to talk with visitors about your product while they play.
Prize Wheel Tips:
- Make sure your prize wheel is large and colorful, you may want to add lights for added flair.
- Engage with the crowd and get them excited for their chance to play on the prize wheel.
- When you set up your prize wheel, make sure you include one grand prize, such as a cash reward, gift card to a local top-rated restaurant or highly coveted digital device.
Trade outs for the prize wheel include:
- Roulette Wheel
- Plinko Board
- Slot Machines
Several companies rent games like skeeball or basketball toss. These can also attract large numbers of people to your trade show exhibit.
How do you get the most out of a game like this? First, theme the game. Put your staffers in team jerseys that sport your company’s name, like the Widget Wonders. Or put them in referee shirts. Get your company or product name into the game or onto the equipment. This gives you greater exposure. Next, offer discounts or upgrades to those who score one or more baskets (depending upon how generous you want to be). Offer a larger prize to the high-scoring winner of the day.
Let the prizes be a consult with your sales rep, $500 off your product or service or something from your company. This ensures those playing are for the most part interested in what you have to offer.
For this classic contest, fill a clear container with jellybeans, pennies, marbles or something that relates to your company or industry. Instruct attendees to guess how many items are in the jar.
Attendees can submit their estimates on the back of their business cards, giving you their contact information and becoming a lead for your sales team to follow up with post-show.
Attendees will be inclined to return to your trade show booth to find out if they won, giving you multiple opportunities to engage and educate.
Tips for Counting Contests
- Advise your staffers to use the counting game as an icebreaker when they approach passersby.
- Use marbles, candies or coins with your company logo printed on them as a way to reinforce your brand messaging.
...are a great way to gain exposure (pun intended) for your event marketing campaign on social media by encouraging guests to upload their contest entries to their social media profiles.
Tips for Photo Contests:
- Create a hashtag for contest participants to tag and post to their social media posts. At the end of the day, declare a winning photo and invite the lucky attendee to collect their prize.
- Add a photo booth to your exhibit and make sure to provide plenty of props. Task attendees with taking the most creative photo with the props and have other participants vote on the winner.
- Encourage photos of the trade show itself—they would still have had to visit your booth
- Promote photo contests for: best smile at the show, attendees favorite product, most liked venue food or beverage item.
This is a fun one that requires very little setup or material costs. The rules are simple: Contestants leave your booth with a sticker on their shirt that features a symbol of some kind (your logo should be also be on each sticker along with the symbol!), and they win by finding the one other person playing the game who has a sticker with the same symbol. So the contest would require attendees to find their match at the show and come back together to your exhibit to win a prize (say something nice like big screen TV).
Furthermore, a bunch of people walking around the trade show floor with logo-branded stickers will attract attention. When someone unfamiliar asks someone playing the game what all those stickers are about, the player will end up talking about your booth, offering you some free promotion.
Prize games are the best, as long as it’s a great prize. Rolling doubles is an easy concept and quick. People will be interested in this because it won’t waste a lot of time, and it’s a great conversation starter with which you can grab their contact info in the process.
Using large dice will attract attention.
Research other dice games and use many dice for additional games.
Make sure you offer a great prize.
Bean Bag Toss Games
This is something that people are familiar with and would have an easy time stepping up to give it a shot.
Easy to adapt for the trade show. Two boards — each with a hole cut in them — are placed a set distance apart, and people compete to see who can toss the bean bag into the hole. It’s easy because many of your attendees are already going to be familiar with the game. It also gives people the opportunity to engage in a little friendly competition. The best games for any expo are ones that people actually play.
Make the game ideal when you place your logo image on the face of the board for company branding.
Trade show contests and games will help you generate a buzz – but that energy and excitement won’t last forever. So make sure to quickly follow up with the prospect leads you received through your games, keeping in mind that your games are only an icebreaker to obtain leads for further sales calls and follow up.
Incorporating trade show games into your marketing strategy is a great way to increase booth traffic and generate more trade show leads. But, trade show games are no use to your brand or trade show marketing efforts unless they build brand awareness, collect quality contact information, and increase your ROI.
As always, we would love to hear about your favorite trade show game and its effectiveness. Please feel free to share below.
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