Hosting a celebrity can pull huge crowds into your trade show exhibit and generate lots of brand-building show floor buzz. But to be really effective, you need more than raw star power. The celebrity you select should be a good fit with your company, your target audience, and your brand values. For instance, if your company creates vintage reproduction hardware, This Old House host, Kevin O'Connor, would work far better than celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck—even though Wolfgang is more famous overall.

So how do you select the best celebrity possible to represent your brand? And how do you maximize the impact of their visit?

First, find a celebrity that typifies your core company values and has target audience appeal.

Here are four examples of great types of people to pick for celebrity booth appearances:

1. Industry Legend
Is there someone in your industry who made a positive contribution so far reaching that everyone at the show (with the exception of those who live under rocks) will be familiar with him or her? If so, that person is an excellent choice for a booth guest.

For instance, Putney, the first manufacturer of FDA-approved veterinary generic medicines, brought Dr. Stephen Ettinger to its booth at the North American Veterinary Conference. Dr. Ettinger's name may be new to you, but in the veterinary community, he is a living legend. After all, Dr. Ettinger wrote the book on veterinary internal medicine—literally.

Dr. Ettinger's book has been at the core of veterinary study since 1970, so, naturally, crowds flocked to the Putney exhibit to take advantage of the rare opportunity to meet Dr. Ettinger face-to-face. Many vets arrived textbook in hand, hoping for an autograph. This expert endorsement aligned Putney with an industry legend and gave the start-up company street cred beyond its years.

2. Star with demographic appeal
As an alternative to inviting someone from your industry, consider inviting someone from the worlds of sports, culture, or entertainment that is popular with your target audience.

When GAF wanted to draw a crowd to its booth at the International Roofing Expo, it turned up the volume with a meet-and-greet with football star J. J. Watt. GAF understood that in the male-dominated roofing industry, the five-time Pro-Bowler would have mass appeal.

3. Philanthropist whose work parallels your brand message

GAF's in-booth meet-and-greet was especially meaningful since J. J. Watt had just completed a huge philanthropic appeal to raise over $37 million for Houstonians who were re-building after Hurricane Harvey. Watt's efforts dovetailed perfectly with GAF's exhibit theme "Protect what matters most."


Some people have huge followings on social media, TV, radio, or other media. When you bring one of them into your exhibit, they will likely make their presence known to their thousands of followers.


When The Modern Craftsman produced its podcast from the Huber booth at the International Building Show, word went out to the podcast's 12,800 Instagram followers. Instagram immediately lit-up and podcast fans across the country listened to IBS news direct from the show floor—including four industry influencers discussing Huber's new products.

Next, maximize the impact of your opportunity

  • Cross-promote your guest's appearance on social media. (Be sure to include a clause in the contract that obligates both parties to promote the celebrity booth appearance on their social media platforms.
  • Don't forget promotion—use pre-show email blasts, advertising, web banners, signage in your exhibit, and even room drops to make sure as many people as possible know both who will be visiting your exhibit and when.
  • For lasting impact, create promotional materials that make a memorable connection between your celebrity and your brand. These connections can range from a direct product endorsement to a philanthropic initiative to a brand experience. All of your promotional material before, during and after the show should reiterate the brand connection.
  • Invite the celebrity to say or do something related to your brand, demonstrate your product—or at least wear branded apparel. Even better, ask attendees to participate in a demo or conversation before or after they meet the celebrity. If you let attendees visit and leave without engaging with your brand, you've just wasted your money.
  • Integrate a raffle, photo-op, or some other reason for attendees to share their contact information with you. This gives you a way to keep the conversation going with all of those attendees who visited your booth.

Celebrities aren't inexpensive, but with the right planning and program, they can improve your ROI. How do you maximize ROI when you have celebrities in your exhibit?