CeBIT: How to have a ‘sticky’ booth


I was going through a pile of papers and found my notes from CeBIT earlier this year. Yay! I thought I’d lost them.

Anyway, back in early May (yikes – was it that long ago?) I attended CeBIT to check out the latest and greatest in the technology stakes.

There were a few things that struck me about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of exhibitor’s stands. So I compiled a list, with the aim of referring back to it should I ever want to set up a booth in future years.

Here’s my observations:

  1. You need to stand out. Obvious yes, but mentioned up front because that is what most of the following points will build on.
  2. Descriptive names are everywhere (you know, things like: Superior Data Solutions, Expert Managed Hosting, Integrated CRM Management, etc, etc). Whilst this might be helpful in some ways, for the most part it is very boring. Few people (with perhaps Internet Dashboard being the exception) can get away with it.
  3. Instead you need to have a cool name. Something short and funky, and easy to remember.
  4. And you must have really cool branding. Bright colours are part of it, but a really slick look is the most important. Standouts were google and eWay. Everyone was flocking to their stands.
  5. In general most stands were ‘blah’, they need to be ‘hey you!’ and grab attention. It was sad to see so many booths being walked past simply because they were drab, had long boring names, or didn’t have even a dash of colour.
  6. You must look different. For example, so many online hosted services companies looked the same.
  7. You must be in the middle. Booths on the outer rims were like a ghost town – ideal for people who needed take a phone call (or catch up on sleep) due to them being so quiet.
  8. I don’t have the cost schedule for the booths but I’m sure the extra cost of being in the centre of things would be worth it. Imagine if you’d managed to get the booth next to the google stand…
  9. You need to have people form a line at your booth. Nothing generates interest better than a crowd (as nightclubs and buffet RSL restaurants know all too well :-). The campaigns that worked well that I noticed were: lining up to use a voucher to redeem a specially prized gizmo (eg IP telephony handset) or answering a quiz question to get a CD (anti-virus software with 6 months free updates, in this case).
  10. You should make noise. But not annoying noise. Having widescreen TVs with interesting demos and the volume up was effective. Most stands however had demos but the volume muted. Perhaps there are some restrictions on volume that I’m not aware of?
  11. You need to come up with a new gimmick. Coffee carts with baristas are old hat these days. A Juice bar would have been good, as would a company handing out bottles of water (with their branding of course), but I didn’t see either of these. You need to say, ‘give me your card, and we’ll give you a free gift’ (of value). I did see a popcorn machine at one stand which was generating a bit of a line.
  12. You need useful flair. Everyone is sick of the stress balls, caps, even T shirts, demo CDs, etc. Instead you need to give something of value. One stand was giving out the new wallet flash USB sticks to select enquirers (not everyone). Nice.
  13. Some stands had Xboxes and Playstations going, and these got some interest. Overall I suspect they weren’t a great draw card.
  14. The days of scantily clothed ‘booth babes’ is almost gone (but not quite). One stand had a spa bath with two bikini clad girls. Heaps of people wandering past, but no one stopping. I actually think this worked against the company.
  15. Instead, I noticed that attractive, professionally attired, immaculately groomed females were drawing in enquiries all the time. Even late in the day when booth after booth was occupied by just the company rep, those with the professional women were always occupied. This might sound obvious (or even sexist – it is), but it was very noticeable. And I should mention that the ladies were engaging about the products – they knew their stuff, they weren’t just eye candy. So forget the lame booth babe concept (from point 14). [And, I should mention that by far the majority of attendees were male.]
  16. Present at one the theatres around the event. In each corner of the main hall there was a mini theatre, with huge screen and PA, for select companies to present. Aim for around lunch time, because everyone is looking for somewhere to sit and eat. Why not take advantage of that captive audience? But your talk needs to be interesting. I was surprised at how bad the two presentations I stopped for were. One presenter was boring, monotone and repeated himself. What the? They must have paid a fortune for that gig and then basically advertised why you should be running away from them screaming… The other presenter I saw was an arrogant know-it-all, who couldn’t stop patting himself and his company on the back. Yawn. You need to be interesting and add value. Don’t try to sell at these presentations.
  17. Talk about the customer. I was surprised at how many stands were ‘us’ focused. All their brochures and demos were about how great their company was, how their software was the most innovative event of the year, etc. Who gives a toss? In the few seconds you have to attract attention, you need to either intrigue the person (ie with a cool logo, branding or giveaway) or, and this is the most likely, show them immediately that you can give them value. You can help. You can solve their problems. You can improve profits, etc, etc. And don’t use scare tactics (eg trying to generate fear about internet security attacks) – people are well aware of the problems; you just need to indicate that you can help.

Some other thoughts about the event:

  1. As an aside, the toilets were appalling, too few, and inaccessible to wheel chair attendees in most cases. This is a criticism of the venue, not the event of course. But, call me crazy, one of these days a vendor is going to come along and set up a big line of ‘glammed up’ Portaloos, and be the most talked about company of the show…
  2. Food was very expensive (eg a sandwich and drink set me back more than $10). Perhaps if an exhibitor did a deal with the caterers to offer some discount to attendees, that could be an option. Attendees would have to line up, hand over their business card, and in return be given a lunch discount voucher.
  3. I have to say that one thing CeBIT has absolutely spot on is the registration process. It was very smooth. Nice work.
  4. I’ve heard some people say that you should focus on getting the right contacts, as opposed to just heaps of unqualified contacts, at these events. This is of course true. However, the people who makes those comments sometimes use this as justification for not having a popular stand – instead, they say, focus on the few good leads you get. This seems bizarre to me – surely you need to be attractive and positioned well to get the qualified contacts too. Weeding out inappropriate prospects takes a few days of phone calls after an event – a small price to pay if it yields even a few extra good leads.
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By Craig Bailey