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How to be a great exhibitor at Education & Career Fairs.

Imagine yourself with attendees spending time magnetized around your booth, just waiting for their turn to interact with you. Everyone wants to get their hands on what you are doing. You offer a popular program, but your exhibit booth and engaging activity are what is securing an audience and searing your brand into their memories. How can you do this with limited resources? The following guidance has been assembled from research and experience around successful exhibiting practices.

Be prepared. Have a staff meeting ahead of the fairs before going on the road so that the person exhibiting is clear on the intentions for the entire team. Know the key message to communicate, the key offering to focus on and the kind of attendee you are targeting. Without preparation, you are shooting a shotgun spray, when you want a sniper scope to imprint relevant leads. Prepare qualifying questions to introduce yourself with. Even if that person is not the right fit, prepare a positive conclusion because their referral may be equally as powerful a recruitment tool as any.

Exhibiting at a tradeshow can be taxing. Starting with the right people is key. When it comes down to it, talking to a prospect to understand their needs, then reassuring them that what you are offering will fulfill their needs, desires and wishes is what secures a future recruit. The person doing so needs to fit certain criteria, and maybe the lead recruiter does not fit the bill. Perhaps a student, program head or another administrator may be the right person who is most relatable to the prospect.

Key needs for an exhibiting staff: positive attitude, extroverted, energetic, stamina, good questioner, good listener, empathetic, concise communicator and again, long-lasting positive attitude.[1]

There are two major focuses on the physical setup of your booth that need to be addressed: open and inviting, interactive and engaging.

It is key to have a booth that is open and inviting. As an attendee it can be scary, awkward and intimidating to approach a booth! Design your booth to be as barrier-free as possible. Your table should be at the back or the side of the booth space so people can enter, engage and be on side with you. If your table is at the front of the booth, you physically block them enter your space, opposite of the inviting message you wish to portray for your organization. If you must sit, ask the attendee to sit with you to stay on their level while you talk. From the beginning plan for a welcoming aura: be part of what we have to offer and be one of us in this organization. Looking for inspiration? Deanna Sealey, senior marketing consultant at Skyline E3 for the tradeshow industry suggest taking inspiration from art and design shows. Try Pinterest using search terms like “small event booth,” “mobile exhibit design,” or “tradeshow booth ideas.” Finally, Sealey suggests visiting a museum who hire professional designers to build their displays to inspire and strike the cords of emotion.[2]

Interactive and engaging booths win every time. There are different physical levels in which to design for to catch the eye of attendees. First, you want a high-level banner that is legible across the showroom floor. Is it more important to know your name or to know what you offer? Next, you want to draw a captive audience by having a hands-on experience. It should be equally as interesting to the enthusiastic participant in your activity as it is for the tentative observer, both of whom will be imprinted with a memory from the experience. Finally, the low-level face-to-face interaction and conversation are what should be derived from engagement. This is at the back of your booth where those who have filtered through your funnel, those who you want to connect with, those who will value your printed materials and those to follow up with after the fair will become your warmest leads.[3]

Come prepared, starting with the right exhibiting person. Make your space an open and welcoming environment. Create excitement for participants and onlookers in your booth so you have a captive audience in which to funnel down into the warmest leads.

For questions about this topic or others, please reach out to your ECF account manager.
Kate Phifer 604-639-3926 accounts A-M
Ben Glassen 604-566-8310 accounts N-Z


[1] Staffing FOr Exhibing Success: Your People Make The Difference, Jefferson Davis, Competitive Edge – The A.R.T. of Exhibitor Training, 2012
 Exhibit Design Inspiration, Deanna Sealey – Exhibitor Magazine, May 2018 p.10
[3] Why Attend Tradeshows? A comparison of Exhibitor and Attendee’s Preferences, Hyungjeong “Spring” Han and Rohit Verma Ph.D. – The Scholarly Commons, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, August 2014 p.246-250

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