7 trade show marketing psychology hacks you need to know

Heading to a trade show soon? Brush up on your nonverbals before you go.

Trade show marketing in action, an interaction between exhibitor and delegate

You’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting ready for a trade show. You’ve ordered all your Marketing Materials, sorted out staffing for your booth, run a pre-show team meeting and have your pitch down to a tee. On the surface, you’re calm and organized.

But how ready are you to take to the trade show floor, meet other exhibitors and chat with attendees face-to-face? 

We’ve been looking at the work of body language experts to help you get ahead of the trade show game. Here’s the low-down on seven nonverbal body language hacks that will help you boost your confidence, forge deeper connections and smash your trade show marketing goals. 

Power up your posture

When you think about a confident person, you probably imagine someone standing straight with their shoulders back and chin up. Good posture is definitely key; it projects good energy, invites people in, exudes professionalism and enhances brand credibility. 

When you enter the trade show, decide on how you want to be perceived. According to Sylvia Gorajeak, a Silicon Valley strategist, “People make a judgment based on someone’s posture more than on their actual role or title.” You may want to build in a workout or some exercise before the trade show to get those endorphins pumping and help you feel more confident and relaxed.  

Smile… but make it authentic

Delegates networking at a trade show event

Smiling instantly makes you look warm, welcoming, and approachable. (Just think of Barack Obama; he has one of the most infectious smiles around.) A simple, friendly smile can transform your booth into a positive and personable space, making it stand out from the hundreds of other booths. 

But it’s not just about flashing your pearly whites. Your smile needs to be genuine; otherwise, people will spot it a mile off. Carol Kinsey Goman, a body language expert and author, warns us not to overdo it. “You have to find a style that resonates with an audience, but that’s also congruent to who you are,” she says. If you want to make sure your trade show smile passes the Obama test, try practicing in the mirror. 

Go in for the handshake

Living in a post-COVID world, we’ve gotten out of the way of shaking hands. But an old-school handshake is still one of the most important tools we have in our trade show marketing toolbox. Former FBI agent and world-leading human behavior expert Joe Navarro says that handshakes are essential because they’re usually the first point of touch in the Western World and tactical interaction matters. Neuroscientist Paul Zak, says that touch primes the brain to release oxytocin which helps us establish trust. And it’s all about how you shake. According to the experts, the best handshakes include “a complete firm grip, eye contact and a vigorous up-and-down movement.” No wet fish handshakes, thanks.

Keep strong eye contact

An exhibitor and delegate interaction at a trade show booth

When it comes to trade show marketing, it’s important to build meaningful connections and a sense of rapport with attendees. Making eye contact is one way to show that you’re attentive, engaged and genuinely interested in what the person is saying. Letting your eyes wander is a no-no, as it signals that you’re not interested or confident in what you’re saying. Don’t let your eyes be distracted by what’s going on at another booth. Keep focused on the person in front of you, and practice active listening. 

Gesture with purpose

When people are nervous, they tend to make quick, sudden movements like playing with their hair or jewelry and flapping their hands. Jittery behavior signals nervousness or low confidence that ultimately impacts your brand image.

Joe Navarro urges us to slow down and adapt smooth, broad movements instead. We’re demonstrating ease and commanding authority by taking up more space and making gestures bigger and more purposeful. Our brains are programmed to trust and respond to confident people, which is exactly what you’re trying to achieve at a trade show.

Practice mirroring 

Body language mirroring as part of a trade show marketing psychological tactic

You do this a lot without even realizing it. But when done with intent, mirroring is a strategic technique that will help you develop solid business relationships. Mirroring involves copying or mimicking someone else’s body language. We tend to do this more when we like someone, are interested in or agree with what they’re saying. 

If you’re having a great conversation with someone, mirroring shows you’re connected and engaged with that person. Goman suggests we start by “observing a person’s body posture and then subtly letting your body reflect this position.” We also can mirror facial expressions to communicate empathy and show that we understand the other person’s point of view. 

Create that wow factor

It’s widely accepted that first impressions matter – especially when you’re trying to attract people to your booth. However, according to 2022 Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, it’s the most remarkable points of an experience and how it ends that sticks in our minds. Kahneman says that if someone experiences pain or distress at the end of an experience, they’re less likely to engage with it again. 

Known as the peak-end effect, it’s an interesting theory for trade show marketing. An awkward goodbye, confusing someone or having no clear follow-up plan with prospects is one sure way to kill the connection you’ve built. Aim to create peak, stand-out moments during interactions. That might be handing out fun Stickers or branded Notebooks. Or ending on a memorably high note by giving them something to remember you, like a customized Water Bottle or Business Card 

Heading to a trade show? 

Trade show booth showing a variety of MOO products such as branded Water Bottles and Business Cards

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