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small exhibits
Biggie Smalls
Most people assume that bigger is better. It's why homebuyers scrounge up cash to spring for the two-story McMansion over the charming ranch house, and why fast-food cashiers get us to supersize our meals for just a dollar more. But even if you believe that bigger is better, small's not so bad either – especially when it comes to booth space. An itty-bitty booth doesn't necessarily mean paltry results are a foregone conclusion. It does, however, call for a little extra marketing magic to get people to seek out your space. So to get your creative juices flowing, here are four examples of exhibitors with 10-by-10- and 10-by-20-foot booths who used promotions, pre-show mailers, activities, and giveaways to create a big presence on the show floor. By Claire Walling
Globe Trotter
Without hanging banners or large structures to beckon to attendees, companies with in-line exhibits need to employ creative promotional tactics if they hope to earn a passing glance, much less attract a curious prospect. Vaisala Oyj came up with just such a promotion for Interphex that not only drew scores of people to its 10-by-10-foot booth, but also demonstrated the capabilities of its new CCL 100 logger.

The logger is a small device that records the environmental conditions of freight throughout its journey. For instance, clients might place a logger inside a shipment of temperature-sensitive materials, such as pharmaceuticals, to determine if the contents are subjected to high temperatures during transit that could damage their viability. But since the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where Interphex is held, would be kept at a stable temperature throughout the show, Vaisala turned its promotion into a take-home activity that would also fully demonstrate its product.

Roughly one month before the show, Vaisala sent an eblast to its client database and preregistered attendees; it also distributed postcards to the sales team for delivery to key accounts. Both the email and the postcard included retro travel-themed graphics and instructed attendees to visit Vaisala's booth at Interphex, where they could register for the "Around the World" activity.

After attendees trekked to the company's 100-square-foot exhibit, staffers invited them to register for the contest and gave them a passport-like pamphlet containing a CCL 100 logger. Staffers explained the benefits of the logger, and then segued into the rules for the "Around the World" activity. Attendees were to take the device home with them either on their person or in their luggage, and then log into a microsite for the contest and upload the temperature data from their trips. Participants would then be entered into a drawing for prizes.

Staffers used the one-on-one interaction to delve into Vaisala's other cold-chain logistics products, and concluded the conversations by giving booth visitors a pair of branded pilot wings, similar to the kind flight attendants dole out to their youngest passengers.

Immediately after the show, Vaisala staffers followed up with contest participants via phone, reminding them to upload their logger data if they had not yet done so, and if they had, asking if they experienced any difficulties with the process. As the contest progressed, participants continued to log into the microsite, where they could see data from others' trips displayed on a globe.

Two weeks after the show ended, Vaisala randomly selected 40 winners for a variety of prizes, including a $500 American Express gift card, noise-canceling headphones, and branded leather travel bags and padfolios.

Despite its tiny booth space, Vaisala garnered big results with the on-the-road activity, including a threefold increase in leads over the previous year's event. That just goes to show tiny booths really can generate big results.

Vaisala Oyj's "Around the World" activity encouraged visitors to use the firm's temperature logger and report results.
Turf and Trivia
Small exhibits offer scant space for product messaging. So instead of plastering graphics around its booth and making attendees' eyes gloss over at the America's Credit Union Conference (ACUC), CMFG Life Insurance Co. (dba CUNA Mutual Group) embedded its key messages and important product info in a trivia game.

Before the show, CUNA sent attendees a direct mailer and eblast emblazoned with the tagline "Protect your turf." Both pieces of collateral instructed recipients to visit CUNA's booth at ACUC, where they could play the Protect Your Turf game and learn how the company can help them defend against talent turnover and unforeseen risks. Furthermore, text in the eblast incentivized recipients' participation by promising they'd receive "a prize to help protect you from the elements" just for playing. Meanwhile, CUNA took out ads featuring the same imagery as the other pre-show communiques alongside the text "sometimes the best offense is a good defense."

CUNA Mutual Group invited attendees at the America's Credit Union Conference to play its "Protect Your Turf" game, which tested players' knowledge on various topics related to risk management and talent turnover.
When attendees entered the 10-by-20-foot booth, staffers invited them to step up to one of two 23-inch flatscreen monitors and play its football-themed trivia game. Designed by CUNA's exhibit house, 3D Exhibits Inc., the trivia game presented players with a problem statement, such as "Sixty-four percent of financial institutions had a DDoS attack in 2012." Players were then tasked with selecting an appropriate "defense strategy," which tied in with a CUNA product.

When players picked the right answer, a box popped up that read "Good call. We offer coverage for lawsuits arising from errors, omissions, breach of fiduciary duty, and other issues." If participants selected an incorrect answer, a pop-up box informed them as such and explained the correct answer. Each round of the three-round game presented four questions, which covered all of CUNA's products and their benefits.

After visitors completed the activity, staffers gave them a branded stadium blanket as a parting gift. The game helped CUNA connect with nearly a quarter of its target, a 190-percent increase over the previous year's show. Furthermore, the activity allowed CUNA to consolidate its product info into an engaging platform.

Brews and I Dos
At consumer trade shows, exhibitors often go to great lengths to attract attendees, no matter what size booth they're saddled with. But Saint Arnold Brewing Co. took attention-getting antics to a new level at the Great American Beer Festival.

Rather than letting attendees drink a pint and then dash down the aisle, as is customary at such events, the Houston-based brewery added a bit of matrimonial merriment to its space.

Playing off the brewery's pious namesake and the jubilant occasions where its beer flows freely, Saint Arnold took exhibit-design inspiration from the pomp and circumstance of a marriage ceremony. Since the two images that come to many peoples' minds when they think "wedding" are that of a chapel and an open bar, Saint Arnold worked with Excalibur Exhibits to design a 10-by-20-foot structure with two distinct halves.

One side resembled a quaint chapel, featuring a faux-brick exterior, arched front entrance, and open sides. Meanwhile, the other half of the booth was set aside as a beer garden reception area.

As attendees made their way through the rows of beer tents and brewing equipment, they came across Saint Arnold's curious little church. There, staffers who took turns wearing a Saint Arnold costume performed in-booth nuptials throughout the show. Prior to the festival, a number of Saint Arnold employees completed online certifications, so they could legally preside over couples' vows. But since attendees didn't come to the show with matrimony in mind, the ceremonies ranged from phony vows to actual, legally binding rites.

Some attendees "married" a pint of beer, others renewed their vows, and two couples actually tied the knot. In all, more than 100 ceremonies took place over the course of the show. Saint Arnold's matrimony-inspired marketing message not only drew attendees to the 200-square-foot space, but also spread a little love throughout the show floor.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. performed nuptials in its exhibit, half of which resembled a small chapel.
Goodwill Games
Allocating space is often the Achilles' heel of small-booth exhibitors. Many companies struggle to market their own products and services in a small space, and can't spare an inch for anything else. But at the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association show in Denver, Brampton, ON, Canada-based exhibit house Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (aka The Taylor Group) lent some of its real estate to a good cause. The resulting promotion left The Taylor Group, attendees, and the official charity of HCEA 2015 (Urban Peak Denver)all feeling like winners.

Staffers greeted attendees at the aisle and invited them to play an interactive game called the Performance Driven Challenge. Then, The Taylor Group reps directed them to stand in front of a flatscreen monitor equipped with an Xbox Kinnect. After calibrating the receiver and selecting an avatar for the game, players entered a virtual environment.

As their avatars "ran" through an exhibit storage warehouse, they encountered barriers comprising groups of brown boxes. Players either bent down or reached upwards to make their avatar tuck and roll under the barriers or hurdle over them, collecting points each time they cleared an obstacle without clipping it. As they were doing so, five phrases – advanced logistics, performance driven, collaborative strategy, purposeful design, and innovative solutions – which represented The Taylor Group's core strengths, flashed on the screen. After the avatar had completed the obstacle course, the player's name and point total were displayed on a leader board that appeared on the screen.

Next, players went to the exhibit's reception desk, where they could sign their name on a beige-colored tag with a multicolored heart at one end and the slogan "Heart of our Programs" on the other. Staffers then explained that the tags would be attached to black backpacks branded with the company's logo and loaded with toiletries and supplies, including branded water bottles.

Players reached up or down to manipulate their avatars through an on-screen obstacle course in The Taylor Group's exhibit. A backpack of supplies was donated to charity on behalf of each participant.
But rather than giving the backpacks to participants as is typically the approach with trade show swag, The Taylor Group staffers explained that the backpacks and their contents would be donated in booth visitors' names to a nonprofit organization, and would ultimately help people in need.

After the show, booth staffers delivered 150 of the bags (with signed tags attached) to Urban Peak Denver, the official charity of HCEA 2015, and the only organization in the Denver metro area that exclusively serves young adults experiencing homelessness. What's more, many attendees were already familiar with the organization, as they had participated in an HCEA-sponsored volunteer effort to paint the facility the day before the show opened.

In all, 51 attendees – and roughly 40 percent of all corporate exhibit managers in attendance at the show – played the Performance Driven Challenge. Through the game, The Taylor Group gave attendees an outlet for their competitive spirits, supported a worthy nonprofit organization, and collected scores of leads to boot. That's not a shabby trifecta to accomplish within a 200-square-foot booth. E

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