Awesome Trade Show Ideas: Virtual and In-Person

Are you looking for some awesome trade show ideas to make your next booth or trade show stand out at a virtual or in-person event?

For in-person events, conference halls and trade shows by nature are often sensory-rich.  At virtual trade shows, it can be challenging to stand out from the “crowd”. Both in-person and virtual events can be too busy, noisy and/or bright.  Whether the event is virtual or not, many people seek more sensory-friendly experiences.  Or they simply need to balance the rich sensory experience of many booths at trade shows with something quieter.

In this blog, you will learn several new trade show booth ideas to attract visitors both in-person or online.  You will also be given great conference hall ideas that allow participants to engage on their own terms.

3 Awesome trade show zones to implement

Infographic highlighting 3 ideas for sensory-friendly trade shows.

Talk Zones

The first suggestion is to create talk zones.  These areas let people be aware of an appropriate place to gather and discuss and where you can expect a busier, noisier experience both in-person or online.  Encourage people to interact by adding seating and tables for them to eat or meet.  You can do the same with some online platforms.  In-person, bar height tables for standing are a great example too.  Consider putting up signs in-person and link online to talk zones or chat rooms. Most importantly, let participants know which areas are sensory-rich and which areas are sensory-friendly.

Fidget Zones

The second suggestion is adding a fidget zone to trade shows in-person.  This would be creating a space for people to explore something tactile with their hands. You can also consider adding fidgets to your booth. In-person trade show booths can also give away tangible, tactile gadgets and tools. However, offering trade show patrons an exploration zone of fidgets is a fun and engaging activity as well.  If online, add a video, audio or visual feature of something tactile that your visitors can do.  For example, teach them how to make something out of origami related to your online booth.  You will be memorable!

Movement Zones

The third suggestion is adding a movement zone.  Create a defined space at an in-person conference hall for movement.  Consider including a live instructor or a video loop, offer chair stretches, or provide yoga mats. As an alternative, lead chair yoga sessions.  Movement helps people pay attention and become engaged.  It doesn’t have to be lengthy or intense and they can do so in their work clothes!   Alternatively, if the neighbourhood lends itself to a group walk, then start or end the day with a walk led around the neighbourhood.  The fresh air and brisk movement will be beneficial for everyone.  For online events, welcome attendees to your booth with chair yoga too or a series of stretches. This will help them be more engaged in your virtual presentations.

Create sensory-friendly exhibit hall zones and booths

Let’s review some more trade show booth ideas that attract visitors that are sensory-friendly.  One of the easiest sensory-friendly strategies to implement is to create a hassle-free and solo exploration space.  For example, you can divide your in-person into a talk zone and a solo zone.  On one side of the booth you talk to participants and on the other side, you let them explore and interact with your exhibit independently.

Creating a talk-zone and a solo-zone online is easy too. Offer both an interactive presentation where you attendees can choose to interact with you online as well as a presentation and resources that they can review and download on their own.

Quiet zones

Now, let’s make the case for building a quiet space into your in-person trade show too.  Exhibit halls, often with concrete flooring and massively high ceilings are hugely noisy and echo-y too.  Build in a quiet zone by adding noise-absorbing furniture and carpet.  Consider using a canopy or tent to block out those glaring fluorescent overhead lights.  Add armchairs or couches and for fun, throw in some bean bag chairs.

If you really want to add pizazz to your quiet zone, make it a digital detox zone.  Let people know that their devices should be put away and turned off in the zone.

On the other hand, a quiet work area is also appreciated.  This would be distinct from the talk zone that is sensory-rich and the quiet zone that may or may not be digital-free.  This quiet work area would allow people to work, in peace!  Provide tables and seating for laptop work.  Be sure to include charging stations.  Online, think about creating a more organized “room” where participants engage around specific topics together instead of an open chat room.

Online, you can create a calm and zen “room” too.  Although participants have to stay connected through a device, think about having a meditation video on loop for example.  Have an online space they can visit that guides them through an easy relaxing yoga sequence. Check out PCMA’s blog post on more benefits of quiet zones at concerts.

Three innovative sensory-friendly ideas for your next conference or trade show booth:

  • Solo space
  • Digital detox zone
  • Quiet work area

Does your trade show include presentations? Get sensory-friendly ideas for great presentation skills too!

Neurodiversity and trade shows

If you really want your conference to be welcoming to a neurodiverse audience then read on.  You might think these are quirky conference ideas, useful only to an autism conference.  It will likely surprise you to learn that the ideas are appreciated by neurodiverse and neurotypical attendees alike and are awesome trade show ideas for any conference.

Traffic light showing a red, yellow and green light for trades show approachability.

Have colour-coded lanyards for nametags.

  • A green lanyard means anyone can talk to me
  • A yellow lanyard means I only talk to people I know
  • A red lanyard means I will approach you if I want to talk

For online trade shows, think about adding features that enable participants to show the same type of visual cue to their online name or badge.

For in-person events, include a sensory map of the trade show hall or exhibit space.  In fact, include a sensory map of the whole conference space.  Let people know where they can expect sensory-rich zones.  Alternatively, indicate areas that are sensory-friendly spaces that are quieter and less busy.

Furthermore, in-person, loan out noise-cancelling earmuffs.  Then again, you could probably even sell them at a big, noisy, crowded trade show.  Give people an opportunity to visit with a break from the cacophony and sounds!

To conclude, three great ideas for an autism-friendly event:

  1. Have colour-coded lanyards.
  2. Include a sensory map.
  3. Loan out noise-cancelling earmuffs.

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