Coping With An Attendee’s
Limited Attention Span
By Barry Siskind
How can you stand out in
the crowd and differentiate yourself from the competition? This is
the most common question exhibitors ask. Exhibitors scramble to
include a cacophony of attention getting ideas to their exhibit
including: prizes, draws, eye-catching graphics and demonstrations.
All these have merit and yet there must be a solid rationale for
every activity in your booth plans. The question is, what works and
what doesn’t. The answer starts with an understanding of show
attendees and what attracts them to one booth rather than another.
Attendees have a difficult time so much to see; so many exhibitors
and too much information. The result is overload their attention
span dwindles and they are incapable of absorbing new information.
When this happens the challenge exhibitors face is magnified. In
some cases attracting attention is left to scantily clad models
gyrating seductively over a new product. This surely attracts
attention but is this the audience you really want? Clearly the
trick is to attract the right attention. Understanding the art of
attention getting to lure attendees into the booth is a crucial step
for all exhibitors.
Some visitors have a
pre-conceived notion of who you are and are desirous to visit
your booth. This interest could be a result of your aggressive
pre-show promotion campaign, your company’s reputation or word of
mouth when one attendee talks to another. These people come to your
exhibit because they had planned to and nothing will dissuade them.
There is also the walk-by traffic that happens upon your exhibit by
chance. This group attended the show with an agenda that did not
include your booth. They have satisfied their show needs and are now
looking to discover other show opportunities new suppliers,
interesting products and so on. Ignoring the potential for new
business among these attendees would be foolish. Although
attendees have diverse reasons for coming to a show, they
share the tendency to avoid things that don’t grab their attention
quickly. Winning the attendee’s interest is a methodical process.
Each attendee needs to pass through three distinct zones of
interest. Passing through these zones happens quickly. It starts at
zone one and moves almost at the speed of light to zone three. All
attendees will respond to zone one but the closer to zone three you
can bring them, the greater the probability you have of conducting
business. As you move through each zone you are tantalizing
your attendee to move further into the booth both visually and
Before you plan your booth layout and your
attention getting techniques, take a moment to think of your booth
in terms of it’s interest zones.
Zone 1Common interest:
Attendees walking the aisle, are like kids in a
candy store. In the candy store they see everything and nothing all
at once. They are blown away by the cool displays and mountains of
candy. Their focus is on one thing only instant gratification.
While trade show attendees are focussed on their shopping needs,
they have the additional challenge of information overload. The
result 90% of the words in any trade show booth remain unread.
Their instant gratification is more than the bag of Smarties that
caught the attention of the kid in the candy store. It might be a
warm fuzzy feeling that comes with recognizing images in the
exhibitors booth, a smile at the wit and humour put into the display
or an instant understanding that a solution to a buying problem is
at hand. In zone one, attention getting showstopper graphics play an
important role. The visitor walks by and is immediately attracted
to a universal message that is represented in dynamic graphics.
Smaller pictures won’t do the trick.
Other techniques that attract attendees at zone
one include the presence of recognizable personalities, in-booth
games, moving lights, sampling and draws for prizes with a
Zone 2 Potential interest:
Once the attendees’ interest has been piqued, you
need to methodically draw them into your booth. A corporate tag line
should do the trick. These tag lines are short statements (less than
seven words) that tell your prospects how your products and services
present a solution for them. In this zone your signs can go into a
bit of detail, but not too much. Perhaps some of the major benefits
of the product can be posted but no more. At zone two you might also
use a draw with a company specific prize, catalogues, product
demonstrations and videos.
Zone 3 Genuine Interest:
Prospects are now really interested and willing
to venture further into your booth. Here your signs can give even
more information. In-booth signs strategically placed in zone three
are designed to help the boothers in their presentation. One-on-one
presentations and in-booth seminars take place in zone three.
1. Common interest
2. Potential interest
Sees the potential
of a solution to a shopping need.
Although there is
no idea whether the solution fits, there is a
willingness to spend more time.
Less likely to
continue walking by.
Will begin to
focus on detail.
curiosity that demands answers
first attempt at
making eye contact with the exhibitor.
3. Genuine interest
Understanding interest zones helps you create a
logical sequencing of signs and fixtures as well as all other
peripheral tools used to attract attention.
Barry Siskind is President of International
Training and Management Company a firm specializing in helping
exhibitors increase their show results. He has helped exhibitors and
their staff throughout the world. He is author of Powerful Exhibit
Marketing. Visit Barry’s web-site at
[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]