In-Person Event Marketing: Tips to Attract and Engage Customers

trade show marketing

In-person event marketing is one of the most exciting areas of marketing; providing a host of benefits for both consumers and your brand. When you finally get to meet your customers in person, you have opportunities to create engagement, increase interest, reach consumers in an impactful way, and personify your brand. It’s also a little daunting for some brands as the stakes are high. Making a good impression at your in-person event marketing requires careful planning, flawless execution, and the right combination of attendees and staff to build excitement and engagement.

in-person event marketingIn-person events

In-person event marketing involves trade shows, conventions, product demos, sampling, product launch events, and a host of other opportunities to meet customers and prospects in a face-to-face setting. I’ve even seen companies create success with virtual events that bring together brands and prospects in a virtual space that mimics in-person events, with many of the same features and benefits. Unlike webinars, these virtual events individualize attendees, invite questions and comments, and allow for informal networking. For instance, IBM offers software to enable a virtual trade show complete with speakers in breakout sessions, a trade show floor where attendees engage with vendors, a coffee break or other networking spaces, and other elements that take a trade show into a virtual space while losing little except the expense and time required to attend an in-person marketing event.

Below, you can see how ROI is calculated to ensure you achieve your financial goals from in-person events. However, recognize that in-person marketing events often involve building relationships, creating awareness, and demonstrating products contributing to sales in the future so don’t expect in-person events marketing to pay off in the short run. For instance, you might collect information from attendees to fuel your lead nurturing program or pass off the sales associates to close business in the future. With accurate attribution of future sales, however, you can assess the long-term revenue from your in-person marketing event.

roi of trade shows
Image courtesy of Ten Pound Hammer

With the wrong or too few attendees, you won’t make the splash you wanted and, just like an empty bar is less exciting than a packed happy hour crowd, it’s hard to gain the engagement you need to support your sales. With the wrong staff working your event, you leave attendees with a poor image of your brand. I’ve been to so many events where the organizers failed to create excitement for their products by sitting around staring at their smartphones rather than going out to greet attendees or they’re so pushy, they send attendees running for the opposite corner of the room. Your role as one of the hosts of an in-person marketing event is to create an atmosphere of fun, while still demonstrating your products, tell attendees the story of your brand, and offering opportunities to continue the conversation after the event.

In-person marketing events are also a great opportunity to learn more about your potential buyers.

  • What do they like about your product?
  • What problems do they see solved by your offering?
  • Are there aspects of the product that don’t meet their needs?
  • Do consumers want more or fewer features?
  • Which versions of your product attract the most attention? The least attention?
  • and much more

Tips to make a splash with in-persons events marketing

Obviously, careful planning and flawless execution are critical for a successful event. You must consider the logistics of getting your people and various elements to the venue at the right time. For instance, you need products to demo either as physical products, prototypes, or examples of your services, such as a quick makeover if you operate a salon or sell makeup. For instance, when Twitter launched at SXSW, they placed large screens throughout the numerous venues to show live Tweets from the event as well as encouraging attendees to sign up for an account on their mobile device.

In some venues, you must arrange for electricity and broadband. You must arrange for marketing materials such as brochures, banners, table coverings, and swag. You’ll also need tools for spreading the word, such as a photo booth that automatically sends images from the event to attendees’ social platforms. To encourage attendees to disclose email addresses, you might offer prizes awarded by random drawing for those supplying email or snail mail information.


Swag is an important element of attracting attendees to your booth, helping them remember your brand after the event, and spreading the word of your brand to everyone who sees individuals sporting your swag both at the event and at home later. Swag also sets up a tit-for-tat that encourages attendees to support your marketing efforts by sharing personal information, listening to a demo, or buying your product.

One of the best ways to reach your multiple goals from in-person marketing events is to give attendees personalized gifts, for instance, something as simple as making a t-shirt that includes their name. Using Heat Transfer Equipment and Accessories you can make these customer shirts at the event so attendees take them home or even put them on at the event.

Using this strategy is easy. All you have to do is get a heat press to the show, employ someone who knows how to make t-shirt prints, and off you go. You can get customers to join in competitions where their prize is a custom-made t-shirt with a unique design. You can also do this for other clothing items, such as long sleeve tops and even jackets. Other personalized gifts include badges, phone cases, wallet prints, and backpack designs.

The art of persuasion

Why don’t we ever talk about the silver tongue when it comes to marketing? If you have employees who are great listeners and smooth talkers, this is one of the most potent marketing tools you have. They can explain how your products work, tell your brand story, and build a relationship with attendees. Sending employees who wait for attendees to start a conversion, sit behind a table, to stare at their phones the entire event doesn’t support your goals and may detract from your brand image. So do overzealous employees who only know a hard sell. An in-person marketing event isn’t the place for that.

Think beyond your human employees. For instance, using a robot to wander through the event is a great conversation starter and fits well if you provide tech services or goods. Creating a working prototype of your product, setting up a computer simulation, or using gamification also attracts attendees.

Image courtesy of Agile CRM

Testing the product

You can only talk about a product for so long. You need to show and allow customers to test it right then and there. Hence you need to have a couple or a few test products you can show customers and let them take it for a test drive. This allows them potentially exclusive access to your latest products and products they never touched.

Make sure you have an employee there to show them how to use it, and how they can get the best from your product, especially if it’s truly innovative. For example, if you build a smartwatch, allow customers to put it on, use the features, and run them through an induction process of how to use certain features. If you ever walked past an Apple store, you know how much attention you get by letting folks play with your stuff.


Marketing in person is always a challenge but it can be more fun and exciting than online. You just need to select the best employees who have the ability to listen well and speak with charisma and allow everyone to test your product.

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