Held every three years, CONEXPO-CON/AGG is a weeklong equipment extravaganza held in Las Vegas. This year it boasted more than 139,000 attendees, 2,400+ exhibitors from 36 countries, and a whopping 3+ million net square feet of exhibits.
Eighteen 2RM team members attended the event, providing trade show support to half a dozen of our clients. Our work included on-site video, photography, social media, trade media, and event support, as well as designing booths, displays, and collateral and providing pre-show, during-show, and post-show communications and media relations.
No surprise, but free stuff is still a trade show crowd pleaser.
Now that the shows are over, our team can share a few of the bigger trends and most interesting ideas they saw. We hope these trade show booth ideas fuel new tactics for your next trade show.
Paper is out and QR codes are in. The 2RM team saw very few paper handouts but noticed a huge increase in QR codes printed on signs, banners, displays, and equipment. QR codes are a cost-effective, green, and user-friendly way to help prospective customers learn more about your products and company. Check out how to upgrade your trade show marketing toolkit with QR codes.
“CONEXPO didn’t allow physical press kits, either,” said Whitney Free, 2RM strategic communications director. “We created digital press kits and then submitted our URLs ahead of time. During the show, they had a wall of QR codes in the newsroom for the media to access. We also printed business cards with QR codes and handed those out at press events.”
Free recommended to marketers at future trade shows to include a website URL, in addition to the QR code, for editors who want to access information on a laptop or for less tech-savvy editors.
Another big change at CONEXPO 2023, noted by 2RM Vice President Brad Olson, was the noticeable lack of big printed banners. In their place, many brands invested in enormous digital walls.
“In years past, we could count on large hotels to offer huge banner opportunities — the Marriott let you wrap the side of its building in printed graphics and the Renaissance hung banners the entire length of its hotel,” Olson said. “But those are gone now. Instead, many brands invested in huge video boards, like Resort World/Conrad Video, to make big visual impressions.”
Best Swag Ideas
No surprise, but free stuff is still a trade show crowd pleaser. At this equipment show, branded baseball caps still topped the list of most-requested freebies. The 2RM team also saw branded safety vests and lots of canvas and recyclable bags for carrying freebies. Many exhibitors had pop-up merchandise stores so customers could purchase branded items: everything from T-shirts and hoodies to scale models of their favorite construction equipment.
Attendees lined up for one fun and interactive giveaway — scratch-off tickets. Customers scratched their tickets to reveal one of several prizes, including branded caps and merchandise discounts.
With so many exhibitors covering such a huge space, brands really had to step up their efforts to get noticed and attract a crowd. “One of the best tactics I saw was live equipment demonstrations,” said Ryan Johnson, 2RM strategic communications manager. “It requires planning and high effort, but putting your products to the test during real-time demos is worth the work. It gave customers a chance to see machines in action and provided the sales team with countless opportunities to start conversations with those watching.”
Many equipment manufacturers had full-size machines being demonstrated, as well as kid-sized machines that children or adults could play with. Equipment simulator machines were popular, too. An annual operator challenge held at CONEXPO generated a big crowd and lots of press coverage.
Brands also engaged celebrities and influencers to help draw customers to booths and demonstrations. “Many manufacturers brought in special celebrity guests, like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and Scott Hoke from Motor Trends, to help pull attendees into their booths,” Johnson said.
But it wasn’t only big-budget ideas that attracted crowds. Some booths had fun with themes and related activities, like a Western booth that had a general store and mechanical bull rides. Free said she even heard rumors of free piercings and tattoos. “I think having a barista at your booth could be a hit at big trade shows,” she said. “Good coffee was hard to find. Provide things your customers need and want throughout a long day at the show.”
Trade Show Experts
Need a talented team to help you prepare for your next big trade show? Contact Two Rivers to get started.