Attention Is Scarce: How To Captivate Distracted Trade Show Visitors In 2019

Trade shows booths image 3333
Images: sourced from

People are glued to their smartphone screens everywhere they go: in the bathroom, at restaurants, at the dinner table, and even at concerts and trade shows. You’d think people put their phones away after paying good money to attend an event, but that’s not always the case.

When you’re a trade show exhibitor, the inability to capture people’s attention will cost you sales and leads. Using basic marketing strategies to draw attention to your booth will only capture the attention of visitors who are looking around. People looking down at their smartphones aren’t going to notice your booth in that way. To catch those people, you need an additional game plan.

Fight distraction with distraction

Have you ever seen someone rush to grab their phone after hearing a notification bell? People do it all the time, even in the middle of a family dinner or a business meeting. It’s not necessarily good that people are easily distracted, but you can use that to your advantage.

Find a way to redirect people’s attention toward your booth without annoying everyone else around. Attempt to herd distracted people to your booth by breaking their attention with sound and movement. For instance, you might push a button that plays a funny sound as people walk by or create some kind of perpetual movement from your booth that people will see out of the corner of their eye.

People don’t like having their screen time interrupted for no good reason, so make sure to engage each person the moment you catch their attention.

Make your booth eye-catching

The key to holding attention once you snap someone out of screenland is to make sure their eyes land on a well-prepared and engaging booth. Your booth needs to offer something visually appealing that makes people want to check you out.

Make your booth as professional as possible

If you pull someone away from their screen and their eyes fall on a cluttered booth, they’re unlikely to wander over. Unless you’re exhibiting at Comic Con, you can’t get away with using folding tables and chairs from Walmart. If you’re a business professional, you need a professional trade show display booth.

With a professional booth, you can print anything you want all over it. You can brand your booth with your logo or create a special message just to spark conversation (or controversy). Check out these pop-up booths from PosterGarden to get an idea of what a printed design can look like.

Create an interactive booth

People need a reason to engage with your booth or they’ll look back at their screen and walk away. That’s where an interactive booth comes into play.

An interactive booth doesn’t need to be complex; you just need to give people a reason to stick around for a while. Give them something to do. Providing a phone charging station is a great way to get smartphone-addicted visitors to stick around. They can’t finish the day with a low battery!

With a phone charging station, you won’t always attract your target market, but it’s an effortless way to get people to visit your booth. There are other ways to catch more of your target market.

For instance, host a raffle with several tempting prizes that your market is interested in. The prizes could simply be your product or services. Announce the chance to win your prizes periodically, and you’ll capture the attention of many.

People are susceptible to influence when they’re distracted

Treat every conversation with attendees as if you’re speaking to everyone present. Everyone within earshot will absorb your message to some degree, even if they’re not paying direct attention to you. Messages processed at low levels of attention do seep into the subconscious. Research suggests this type of influence can be more effective than direct influence.

Capture attention with technology

Technology seems to capture attention extremely well. The more cutting-edge and unique you can use technology to your advantage, the better.

To see how exhibitors are pushing boundaries with technology, check out what happened in the Retail Innovation area at JCK Las Vegas in 2019. The atypical trade show environment was filled with IoT, smart technology, and interactive platforms. One vendor showed a holographic diamond-cutting video that floated in mid-air.

Interrupt first, then persuade

It’s hard to capture someone’s attention from a distance when they’re distracted by a screen. You have to interrupt them first. Once you divert their attention away from their screen, then you can persuade them to visit your booth. However, don’t worry if you can’t get everyone to look up from their screens. Pour most of your energy into connecting with attendees who visit your booth. Consider distracted visitors a bonus when you catch them.