That's Entertainment: Adding Some Show Biz to Your Tradeshow Exhibit

Susan Friedmann

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What makes one tradeshow exhibit memorable and another so-so? What can exhibitors do to get attendees talking after the show? What can motivate visitors who may have had no previous intention of visiting your booth decide that they definitely have to stop by?

Entertainment! According to tradeshow research, live presentations are the third most important reason why people remember the exhibit. Numbers one and two? Booth size and product interest. If you've got a limited exhibiting budget, hiring entertainment may be a cost-effective way to attract attention to your company without springing for the larger, pricier display space.

What are your options?

Entertainment options at tradeshows are almost endless. Any form of live presentation can work, including:

  • staged product demonstrations
  • theatrical skit
  • magician
  • game show
  • choreography
  • video
  • audio
  • robot
  • singers or musicians

    The key is to have entertainment that acts as an integral part of your marketing message. To do this, you need to know a few things:

  • What type of entertainment will appeal to your target audience?

    A robot that dispenses free samples might go over big at a tech show but fall flat at a pet care industry show. Conversely, those wired types might be more puzzled than pleased by a troop of trained terriers. Know your target audience.

  • How much product information do you want to convey via the entertainment?

    Some entertainment formats are better than others for educating attendees about your products and services. Product demonstrations, especially those that draw participants from the audience, are a great way to get the crowd focused on what you're selling. Other acts focus on simply getting the company name and logo out there, such as a magician who uses the company's name as the ‘Magic Word’.

  • What is your corporate image?

    Any entertainment you select should positively reflect your company's image. This goes beyond a Western Wear company selecting a country singer to entertain the crowds - attendees will hold you to a higher standard than that. Research the acts you're proposing to hire. Some acts may not be appropriate for mainstream companies - ask to see a video of an average performance and ask yourself how would your customer base view the images.

    With those questions in mind, decide what kind of entertainment you'd like to have and who will perform for the crowds. If you've decided on live product demonstrations, you may be able to use your own staff members, but other than that, you're generally better off hiring a pro.

    How to Make the Most of Your Money

    Hiring a professional entertainer is an expense. Ensure you get your money's worth by doing the following:

  • Identify how the presentation helps achieve your goals - let the entertainer know clearly what you expect for them to do.

  • Create promotional activities centering around the entertainment. From pre-show direct mailings to on the floor interactions with attendees, make frequent mention of the event and have an incentive that will encourage attendees to visit your booth.

  • If your staff is not on stage, find ways to involve them in the presentation. Use them to gather the crowd or to capture and monitor pertinent information during the presentation. Let them know it's okay to be enthusiastic about the performance - excitement is contagious, and you want an excited crowd.

    What to Avoid

    Good entertainment is expensive, bad entertainment can cost more than you will ever imagine. Protect your company's image and reputation by avoiding the following:

  • Crass, rude, or offensive acts. There are comedians who do very well with off color or hurtful humor, but the risk of alienating large segments of your consumer base by sponsoring one of these acts is too great.

  • Under-dressed entertainers. Scantily clad women and barely dressed men wiggling provocatively have no place at most shows. In fact, the aggressive use of “Booth Babes" has been so off-putting that some shows are banning them all together. Unless you're exhibiting an adult-themed show - ie, one that caters to the sex industry or some travel shows - have your entertainment keep their clothes on.

  • Acts that are clearly amateur. Tradeshow audiences are harsh. They won't be tolerant of second rate acts. Hire the best you can afford for better results.

    Written by Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies, ” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of “10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make”, e-mail: ; website:

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