Tips and Trends

Ask 3D Exhibits: What is the Best Way to Integrate Food Service Into My Trade Show Exhibit?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Food is a great way to drive attendees to your booth. Tired and hungry trade show attendees flock to visit exhibitors who are giving out snacks and beverages. The challenge is that often attendees will grab your candy or cookie without even noticing whose booth they are in—which completely negates your efforts to create a memorable impression.

The solution is to integrate food into a larger program that increases engagement and ensures that the attendee remembers who provided their snack.

Here are six of our favorite tactics:


1. Serve a snack that reinforces your message. Whenever possible, your food service should tie into your exhibit’s theme or key benefits statement. This will help attendees connect their snack to your message and better remember their experience in your exhibit.

When Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s message was that its products drove results when used at home (as opposed to performing only in clinical trials), the company reiterated its message by distributing a treat that reminds most of us of home: cupcakes.

3D Exhibits emphasized its Think Bigger campaign by serving mini-cinnamon buns and little Swedish Fish in the public areas of its exhibit—and supersized cinnamon buns and jumbo Swedish Fish in its private Think Bigger meetings. This non-verbally reinforced the Think Bigger message in a very memorable way.


2. Qualify everyone. Don’t let attendees grab a treat and trot off. Make it a requirement that they let you scan their badge and answer a few qualifying questions prior to receiving their snack. That way you know how many people you drew and can follow up with them after the show.


3. Transition to a demo. While you’re qualifying your visitors, invite them to participate in a product demo. Most will appreciate the opportunity to stand in one place as they finish their snack. And you’ll extend the experience to include a hands-on encounter with your product.


4. Take advantage of the queue. Where free snacks are involved, it’s not unusual for attendees to stand in line and wait. Savvy marketers take advantage of the queue to have their exhibit staff engage and connect with additional visitors.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition added a twist to this at North American Veterinary Conference by inviting attendees to place custom coffee orders via an app. Then, their staff moved in and engaged as attendees waited for the barista to finish their orders.


5. Create an immersive experience. Add a branded seating area for people to relax in as they consume their snacks and you just may find your exhibit filled with smiling customers and prospects. Small details such as napkins and beverages branded in your corporate colors add a festive feel.

This can be done inside your exhibit—or even outside by using food trucks to create your own branded food court. Jacobsen opted for the latter, distributing tickets to attendees who visited their booth. How far will attendees go to receive a free lunch? The Jacobsen Café sold out of burgers every day.


6. Integrate clever details. Jacobsen leveraged the beds of its products, turf maintenance equipment, as ice chests for its beverage service. You can bet no one forgot which company sponsored this lunch.


What tactics have you used to maximize your return when integrating food service into your exhibit? We’d love to hear from you.







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