Trade Show Psychology: Know the Crowd

A person can be rational, they can be educated, intelligent, pragmatic, they can be talked to, convinced, swayed and argued with. A crowd, on the other hand, is more like a force of nature, something that you can perhaps harness, but rarely control.

Now obviously, once you’ve reeled a prospect into a trade show booth, you’re going to be talking to them one on one, but until then, they’re a part of the shapeless mass that is The Crowd. Plucking somebody out of that crowd can be difficult, so here are a few tricks to help your trade show displays stand out…

Being Authoritative

When lost in a crowd, an individual is often looking for some form of authority or leadership. Think about it, if you’re in a building that’s on fire, you’re looking for the guy with the bronze badge waving you out, right? If you’re lost in Wal-Mart, you’re looking for a guy in a blue vest to point you in the right direction. Even in smaller crowds, if you’re in a long line at the bank, you can’t see the front of the line, so you’re following that velvet rope like your life depends on it. It’s all about having that beacon, somewhere, or someone, a person in the crowd can turn to in order to figure out what’s going on, to get their bearings, or just to stay safe.

In business, this means taking the lead in your industry. At trade show booths, being an authority in a crowd situation could be as simple as providing maps of the convention or information. It could even mean giving people a break from the stress of the crowd by offering free water or coffee so they can stop and collect their thoughts. Out of thirty people who come to your booth, maybe two or three will stick around to ask what, exactly, your company does, but those numbers are better than some people see at their trade show booths for the whole event.

Low Pressure Tactics

Clearly, there’s a difference between low-pressure sales tactics and flat out ignoring your prospects. Here’s the happy medium: say hello to everyone who comes to your booth, offer some info or advice if you notice them studying your brochure intently, but don’t be pushy, and try to let them initiate dialog. The majority of people at a trade shows will make the rounds, giving each booth a quick look, before coming back to the ones that interested them. Give them the opportunity to leave and come back, don’t treat every prospect like a fish that’s trying to get away, or you may well scare them off. Being in a crowd can be stressful, and the last thing you want is to “tighten the screws”, so to speak, on a potential customer looking for respite.

Clear, Concise Booth Design

Here’s a trick to human psychology: we’re instinctively attracted to shiny objects. Scientists assume that this helped us find water back in the prehistoric days, but whatever the reason, we still like shiny things after all these years. Other than that, clear, concise, clean booth layouts will always do better than noisy, colorful, flashy and tacky booth designs. A bold banner is nice, but the human eye is actually more attracted to white space than it is to darker imagery or color. Think of Beatles album covers and you think of The White Album. It’s an iconic, clear image. “The Red, Green and Gray Album” wouldn’t have been quite so eye-catching. The human eye likes simplicity.

Other than this, just make sure that once you bring your prospects in, you have something to show them.


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