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5 of the Most Creative Trade Show Exhibits


January 21, 2020

Trade show planning has come a long way from the classic information booth. Handing out your generic pens and flash drives just doesn’t resonate in today’s diverse markets, and doesn’t help you create new business relationships in any meaningful way. When done right, however, creative trade show exhibiting can be huge for your business. It’s a prime opportunity to engage new clients with your brand and generate some of the highest-quality leads. The exposure that you get at these events can directly lead to increased sales.

Savvy marketers are use their trade show exhibits as a part of complex, integrated marketing campaigns–and they’re yielding great results! If you’ve been thinking of getting creative with your trade show exhibition concept, these 5 exhibitors will surely get some of your wheels cranking.

Here are 5 of the most creative trade show exhibits, and the marketing campaigns that supported their success:

1. Promega Corp’s Coffee-Themed Campaign

Promega Corp coffee exhibit

Despite a thriving market in 2015, biotechnology company Promega Corp was finding it difficult to land good returns on exhibit marketing. This led them to take a new approach for the 2015 European Society for Human Genetics conference.

They started with identifying and understanding their target market. They knew going into it that biotechnology scientists didn’t want to merely be sold to. Although sales were the ultimate goal, Promega’s exhibitor team knew that they needed to do more than present their brand–they needed to engage with their attendants in conversation. What better way to do this than over a cup of coffee?

Promega began their plan of attack prior to the event with email blasts priming guests to take part in an interactive cafe environment. At the conference registration, the show bags included coffee cup-shaped Promega flyers that offered each guest the chance to win a coffee mug. At Promega’s mini coffee shop exhibit, exhibitor “baristas” wore Promega branded aprons and offered their guests coffee. Their creative and warm approach allowed them to casually discuss attendees’ business problems over a cup of coffee. This led to doubled booth traffic from the previous year, and increased their quality leads by 400%.


Steelhead Productions’ innovative exhibition captivated the whole crowd at EXHIBITOR2104. Their approach? A vintage carnival theme, complete with a ring toss, pop-corn machine, and fortune-teller machine–all of the carnival essentials.

Steelhead introduced the carnival to their attendees in several pre-show mailers, one of which included tickets for the exhibit’s ringtoss game and fortuneteller machine. For industry VIPs and press staff, the company also sent a gift bag containing peculiar branded items like lunch bags, sunglasses, yo-yos and lollipops.

Aside from resulting in an Eddie award-winning booth, Steelhead’s Play exhibit led to a 229% increase in leads from the previous year, in addition to a 48% increase in booth traffic. The company left the show with a whopping 88 qualified leads, and it ultimately led to $1 million worth of business in the following months. Saying this was a success would be an understatement!

3. Grand Hall USA’s Rock Band Display

Grand Hall USA's rock show exhibit

The small manufacturer Grand Hall USA took a hardcore approach in order to stand out amidst its giant competitors. Their 2013 exhibit at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition featured a rock-n-roll theme crafted to appeal to their predominantly male, blue collar contractor demographic. Grand Hall used music, music videos, and animated clips to educate their new leads about how revolutionary their product actually was. The team collaborated with Texas-based rock-n-roll band The Walton Stout Band to create rock tracks that explained their complex External Hybrid systems in a catchy way. The exhibit, named the Hybrid Hysteria Tour, was complete with a stage setup, concert t-shirts, and VIP passes. 

To build up anticipation for their exhibit before IACHRE, Grand Hall send out mailer teasers that drove people to a microsite, where they were automatically entered into a drawing. One of the dozens of attendees who entered each day of the exposition was chosen to crush a guitar right there in the exhibit!

In the end, Grand Hall increased their leads by 85% from the previous year, obtaining 409 in total. Additionally, they received a 47% increase in media mentions with the buzz surrounding the campaign. Staffers continued to get questions about the t-shirts, and the exposition’s attendees could be seen wearing the shirts even months after the show was over. This example was a true testament to the lasting effects of a strong idea and a simple execution.


Quite the opposite of a simple execution, marketing agency Derse Inc. used an extravagant display to encourage attendees to try something new. Their “Step Outside Your Comfort Zone” exhibit at EXHIBITOR2011 was complete with a tower-topping amusement ride.

The exhibit itself was created to sharply contrast the comfortable with the uncomfortable, thrilling, and, for some, scream-inducing. Derse employees wearing plain white shirts, khakis, and converse welcomed attendees into an exhibit that appeared very cozy. Silk string hung from the ceiling, sofa-sized bean bag chairs invited guests to take a seat, and the scent of chocolate chip cookies filled the air.

Attendees got to sit and converse comfortably before they were led (with glow sticks) to venture ‘outside of the comfort zone.’ Outside of the comfort zone, staffers wore darker-colored tones like black and grey. They invited attendees to sit on benches comprised of screws and fed them wild hibiscus flowers.

At the end of the exhibition tour, each attendee was invited to Derse’s after-hours event, where they could continue to push their boundaries (bellydancing, anyone?). They were also offered a ticket to ride an amusement ride, Insanity, which dangled the riders from atop Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Tower.

The whole campaign led the company to a 19% increase in leads from the previous year, and approximately $750,000 in revenue. The creative execution paid off all around.

5. Xirrus, Inc.’s Boxing Theme

Xirrus Inc's Boxing exhibit

How does a small company stand up to its giant competitors? Fight for the audience’s attention of course! Wifi network provider Xirrus, Inc. took this quite literally at Interop Las Vegas 2009, an annual show in Information Technology. Xirrus wanted to let convention attendees know that their device could deliver more bandwidth and coverage than its competitors, while requiring fewer devices, a shorter installation time, and less cabling. Since they were generally unknown in the market at the time, they set up a round of boxing matches that they knew would capture the crowds.

Their boxing match was complete with an announcer, a professional referee, and, of course, a ring girl to announce the rounds. Xirrus hired boxers from the Richard Steele Boxing Agency to compete in real intense boxing matches, with the exhibition attendees choosing the winners based on their applause.

The results for Xirrus were obvious, both immediately and in the months following Interop. The company’s booth traffic from the previous year had quadrupled–the boxing ring drew in approximately 3,000 attendees, and the booth scanned more badges than any of the competitors at the convention.  In the months following, the show generated $1 million in related sales.

Injecting a bit of creativity into your exhibit’s campaign is vital if you want to create valuable leads at your next tradeshow. All it takes is a bit of planning ahead–come up with a solid concept, get to work, and make sure you implement the marketing to support it. Happy exhibiting!


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