465520023It seems like everything we do, these days, has some sort of virtual component. Most of my meetings, for example, are held online. I’ve even attended virtual conferences. The cost of travel, coupled with the cost to run a trade show (and an effective trade show booth) has left many people wondering if it’s a dying industry.

According to a study from the Center for Exhibition Research, the industry is actually seeing growth. With growth, technology, and consumers that are increasingly harder to please, the bar for booths has certainly been raised. The old way of passing out sales sheets and business cards will no longer cut it.

So, what are some exemplary trade show booths? I’ve rounded up five of my favorites.

1) Michelin

Where?

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit

What?

Michelin’s booth (built by MC2) let visitors, “Be the Tire.” They were able to step onto a floor mat, place their hands on a dashboard, and experience the road-- all from a tire’s point of view. Visitors were able to feel vibrations, bumps, dips, and different road surfaces. Pretty cool, right?

Why was it cool?

Michelin made visitors feel what the tire feels -- a unique and memorable experience that is sure to sear the brand on the hearts and minds of all who experienced “being the tire.”

2) Brooks Running

Where?

The 2013 Boston Marathon Expo

What?

Runners have come to expect pretty awesome booths, from this running giant. At the 2013 Boston Marathon Expo, they didn’t disappoint. Going with the theme, “Carb Happy,” Brooks’ booth included a running gait analysis, photobooth, an accordion player, and pasta. Runners left the booth with a memorable experience, and full bellies.

Why was it cool?

Brooks made themselves useful to visitors -- a gait analysis and pasta are definitely ways to attract and engage runners the night before a big race.

3) Fusion-io

Where?

Interop, in Las Vegas, NV.

What?

Two words: mechanical bull. Fusion-io took a pretty big risk, dressed a mechanical bull up like a hard drive, and encouraged visitors “toss your drive like the hard drive is going to toss you.”What’s more, they had a host encouraging the hard drive riders to hang on. Watch the video here.

Why was it cool?

IT can be boring. Fusion-io took what is normally a pretty straight laced industry, injected some comedy and fun and attracted a heck of a lot of buzz to their booth. 

4) Nickelodeon

Where?

Licensing Expo in Las Vegas

What?

While the Licensing Expo isn’t known as a kid-centric trade show, Nickelodeon knew that parents tend to bring their children to the show. They also wanted to tap into the inner kid in all of us. They did just that with a booth that personified Nickelodeon while keeping it educational, interactive, and engaging.

Included at the booth were a twitter activated vending machine (So cool!), a video wall that welcomed guests, character cut out doorways, small prizes, charging stations, and edible treats.

Why was it cool?

Nickelodeon attracted kids and adults, alike, and encouraged them to stay at their booth, with plenty of entertainment to keep them there.

5) charity: water

Where?

Inbound 2013

What?

Five Months after Inbound 2013, charity: water’s booth still stands out as one of my favorite booths of all time. Their, “Waterwalk,” challenged visitors to carry two Jerry Cans full of water, to signify the journey taken to bring clean water to town. What’s more, charity: water pledged to bring clean water to one person in Orissa, India, for every completed Waterwalk. The coolest? I think that goes without saying.

Why was it cool?

It’s hard for us to image what it’s like for not have easy access to clean water. charity:water tapped into the emotions of visitors, by putting them through the physical rigor of carrying water. They forced visitors to really think about what people in India go through, just to access a luxury that we so often take for granted.

All five of these booths have one thing in common: they engage visitors. They’ve all proved that functionality + creativity = a recipe for trade show booth success. Your Turn: What are the coolest trade show booths you’ve ever seen?

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Originally published Feb 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Event Marketing Trade Shows