The stretch of major IT events is fast approaching, so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at how IT marketers can make the most of their presence on the trade show floors in 2016. Lauchlan Co-Founder and CEO Kathleen Lauchlan is a regular at these events, and has a few ideas on how companies can stand out from the crowd, drive booth traffic and bump up the ROI. Here are the highlights from our Q&A: PF. Hey, Kathleen. So it’s that time of year: The trade shows are coming. In your experience with our clients in the IT channel, what do you think are the key benefits of spending budget and resources on events like EMC World, HPE Discover, Citrix Synergy, Cisco Live, etc.? KL: I think you, of course, have to look at it from two perspectives: sales and marketing. On the sales side, the benefits of trade show attendance are obvious: the opportunity to connect with potential prospects, industry peers and customers in a short period of time and in a single location. Trade shows have proven to be one of the most effective ways to generate quality new leads and accelerate ongoing opportunities. From a marketing perspective, a well-executed booth presence delivers an engaging, immersive brand experience that simply can’t be duplicated by other means. The in-person experience is still hugely important in IT and probably always will be. I think it’s also important to demonstrate your company’s connectedness to the industry in a very tangible way. Exhibiting at these events is a way of putting your flag in the ground and showing that you are a player in the ecosystem. It really has an effect on mindshare. PF. In your experience, have you seen particular strategies that help companies standout in the crowded boothscape? KL: Great question. A successful strategy we’ve used with clients is to create a uniquely creative theme for a trade show. The idea is to create a theme that has enough legs to carry across pre-, post- and at-event materials, both in messaging and as a compelling visual story. PF: Any examples? KL: One particularly successful theme was our “Reach Peak IT Performance with [OEM] and [Partner].” We featured an actual rock climbing wall as part of the client’s trade show presence. The “peak performance” messaging was reflected across engaging promotional materials, delivered a memorable brand experience, and provided the backdrop to a stand-out booth experience complete with climbing contests and prizes. Talk about rockin’ the trade show floor—the climbing wall was visible from all areas of the exhibit hall and was by far the most talked about booth. For another client we came up with the theme “Ride the Wave of IT Innovation” and had a whole surfing theme, with surf board simulators, surfing contests, beach-themed music and a raffle for a 4-day beach getaway to Los Angeles. Great booth draw and a really memorable brand experience for our client. PF: Awesome! And of course it always helps to build buzz for your presence before the event. What do you see working there? KL: We’ve seen great traction by utilizing an integrated approach to pre-event communications across social media, email and direct mail—it’s that multi-touch, multi-channel magic. Making sure there is a clear call to action and link from the communication you’re delivering to your booth is important. As an example, we once had as a booth driver a model Ferrari giveaway in a large glass case in our client’s booth. We sent all event registrants a direct mailer with an actual key. If the recipient’s key opened the glass case, they won the model Ferrari inside. This offer was so effective we literally had 50+ people lined out of the booth and down the corridor. Exhibitors oftentimes also have the opportunity to insert something into the event’s welcome registration packs. If so, go for something that stands out in the pack and makes a clear call to action to the booth—something that won’t get mixed in with the typical collateral in these packs. Our team has found some really cool, odd ball items on sites like The Gadget Flow. PF: It really is a strong trend we’re seeing with IT pros these days. They’ve been showered with the bland tech swag for so long that the quirky stuff is really resonating. They want this Stormtrooper pepper shaker, not a USB stick with your logo. Cool, sounds like some great ideas for breaking through the trade show noise. Anything else to add? KL: Just that we’re here to help! Lauchlan has a range of solutions for the whole IT trade show cycle—pre-event, at-event and post-event lead nurture. I encourage our readers to reach out if they want to start a conversation about their upcoming shows. PF: Thanks, Kathleen! I’m sure you’ll be heading to more than a few of them this year. We’ll be interested to hear your report on which brands were rocking the floor most righteously.