How to Appeal to Millennials at Trade Shows

Are you heading to a trade show where you expect to encounter a large number of millennials? Depending on your view of this generation — and whether or not you’re a part of it — this prospect might either excite or terrify you. We assure you, though, that there’s no need to worry. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get millennials interested in your trade show exhibit and your brand.

Definitions of the term “millennial” vary. According to the Pew Research Center, the generation includes those born between 1981 and 1996. In the United States, there are approximately 71 million millennials, and their numbers are expected to peak in 2036 at 76.2 million, as immigration adds to their ranks. They’re expected to become the largest generation in the U.S. in 2019.

So, we know there are a lot of them, but who are these fabled millennials, really? What makes them tick, and how can you appeal to them at your next trade show appearance?

The Millennial Mindscape

You’ve probably heard a lot of different descriptions of millennials, some of which may have seemed contradictory. Some of the most common descriptors are lazy, entitled, idealistic and tech-savvy, but there are many more, as well.

Before we get into dissecting the millennial mindscape, it’s important to note that the group is not a monolith. In fact, they’re quite diverse and have a range of values, opinions, personalities and backgrounds. It can still be useful, though, to describe common traits you can use as guideposts when engaging with them. Many millennials do have things in common with one another — in part because they all grew up during the same period — but it’s critical not to talk to them as if they’re all the same. At the risk of sounding contradictory, millennials can tell when companies try to market to stereotypes.

Here are some of the characteristics most often attributed to millennials:

  • Multi-Taskers: Many millennials grew up with smartphones and other devices that can provide constant stimulation and information. As a result, they often multitask and are better at doing so than previous generations.
  • Tech-Savvy: Also as a result of growing up with technology such as smartphones, millennials are typically good with technology. They are the first generation that includes digital natives, or those born into a world with digital technology. According to Pew, 92 percent of U.S. millennials have a smartphone.
  • Educated: Four in 10 millennials between the ages of 25 of 29 have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 32 percent of the previous generation, Generation X, at the same age. The difference in education for women is even more dramatic — 46 percent of millennial women ages 25 to 29, compared to 36 percent of Gen Xers.
  • Information-Oriented: This penchant for education extends into their daily lives, as well. Millennials love to be informed and spend large amounts of time gathering information online. They typically compare the prices and features of multiple products before making a purchase. Around 57 percent will compare prices in-store.
  • Transparent: Millennials value honesty and transparency. They want open, honest communication from their friends and family, employers and the brands they patronize. Research by benefits consultant Mercer found that a third of millennials say they’re comfortable with discussing their pay with co-workers, more than any other generation.
  • Conscious: Millennials tend to be mindful of social, environmental, economic and other issues. These values show up in their spending habits — 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make public commitments to corporate citizenship, while 73 percent say they’ll spend more on sustainable products.
  • Narcissistic: This is one of the more controversial descriptors of millennials, especially since it seems to contradict their socially conscious attitudes. There is some research that suggests millennials focus more on themselves than other generations. Millennials themselves even say they’re more self-centered than previous generations — but not to the extent that other age groups think. Many researchers say the difference in narcissism between generations isn’t as dramatic as public perception makes it seem. They also believe it’s likely caused by society’s increased emphasis on individualism.
  • Lazy: Another trope about millennials is that they’re lazy and entitled. An often-cited reason for this is the fact that they received participation trophies as kids. Research, however, shows that many millennials are workaholics or “work martyrs.” Approximately 24 percent of millennials, a recent study found, didn’t use their vacation hours, compared to 19 percent of generation X. While some millennials may be lazy, this doesn’t seem to define the majority of the generation.
  • Open-Minded: Many millennials are very receptive to new ideas. They like to find new, better ways to do things rather than accept the status quo.
  • Self-Expressive: People often describe millennials as self-expressive and use social media as evidence of this. Millennials certainly do love their selfies and status updates, but it’s hard to say if other generations would have used these technologies differently if they had them. Either way, many millennials value expressing themselves, especially online.
  • Confident: Many millennials are also confident and believe they can accomplish what they set out to do.
  • Idealistic (Yet Pragmatic): Millennials are often described as idealistic. Many of them are optimistic and want to make the world a better place, and they believe they can achieve that through hard work. Some, including author and speaker David Burstein, call this mindset “pragmatic idealism.”

How to Appeal to Millennials at Trade Shows

If your goal is to appeal to millennials at your next trade show, you need to use strategies that center around their values, beliefs, preferences and personalities as described above. It would help if you also considered any other information you have about who will be at the trade show, including the industries they work in and their goals in attending the event.

Here are nine millennial-optimized strategies to use at your next trade show.

1. Create an Experience

To make your trade show display more interesting, try creating an experience for attendees, rather than just giving them information. Incorporate elements into your space that are hands-on and encourage participants to interact. This approach is sometimes called experiential marketing or engagement marketing.

Millennials, especially, appreciate this type of marketing. According to a survey conducted by Eventbrite, 78 percent of them prefer to spend money on experiences rather than physical objects. They don’t like feeling like they’re being marketed to and would rather have an authentic experience.

What kinds of experiences can you integrate into a trade show? Try incorporating games, competitions, interactive digital displays or hands-on product demonstrations. Feel free to get creative and come up with unique ideas. You don’t have to limit yourself to your booth, either. Consider using other areas in and around where the event is being held or hosting your own event outside of normal conference hours.

When planning your engagement marketing, just make sure it’s on-brand and encourages trade show attendees to get involved. Also, make it shareable and consider adding an online element, such as a hashtag. If you do it well, participants will remember your company after the trade show is over and have an improved perception of your brand.

2. Incorporate Technology

Incorporating technology into your next trade show display can help you get millennials interested in your brand and keep them engaged. Make sure you’re not just using technology for technology’s sake, though. Use it in ways that enhance the message you’re trying to get across and align with your brand identity. Millennials understand technology, so they’ll appreciate it much more when companies use it tastefully.

You can use technology to encourage millennials to visit your display. Consider adding in perks like charging stations or free Wi-Fi. While they’re using these amenities, start up conversations with them without barraging them with promotional messaging. You could also hand out tech-related trade show giveaways such as flash drives, laptop camera covers and phone stands.

You can also use tech to convey information. Interactive displays, videos and other media can help you communicate a message. You could even try to incorporate virtual reality and other more advanced technology if it makes sense for your brand.

Tech can also help you to interact with event attendees and keep in touch with them following the event. Consider making social media an integral part of your trade show experience by posting regularly, running online polls or competitions and using hashtags related to the event and your brand specifically.

3. Build the Relationship

When trying to appeal to millennials, it’s essential to go beyond just explaining your products or services. Millennials want to build relationships with the brands they patronize. Events like trade shows are the perfect place to start forming those relationships thanks to the face-to-face interactions it enables.

Millennials want to get to know a brand before they make a purchase, which is where their preference for transparency comes in. They want to know what a brand stands for — what their larger purpose is beyond just selling their products and services. They want to know what motivates the company.

So, tell them. You can incorporate this messaging into your signage, brochures, video and other materials, as well as your interactions with event attendees. To make this message hit home, present this information in a conversational way.

You should make an effort to make it relevant to the people you’re talking to, whether that’s through a sign or a conversation. Identify your audience’s needs and make them a part of your interactions.

Once you’ve begun to form your relationship, get contact information from the people who are most likely to become customers. Then, follow up with them after the event with an email — or, less formally, on social media. Cool trade show giveaways like tote bags, fidget spinners and apparel can also help you build relationships because they remind attendees of your brand after they leave the event.

If the relationship takes off, the result will be brand loyalty and possibly an unofficial but enthusiastic brand ambassador.

4. Align With Purpose

Because millennials want to understand a company’s larger purpose and buy from socially and environmentally conscious businesses, consider making this a crucial part of your trade show display.

Put your purpose front and center in your branding materials. Millennials are more likely to engage when their values are an integral part of your interactions with them. This will help them feel connected to your brand and make them more likely to become customers. Just make sure you present this information authentically.

You can incorporate your company values and corporate responsibility initiatives by including them in your signage, creating videos about them or discussing them with event attendees. You could also build your trade show display out of sustainable materials or give away eco-friendly promotional products to show your commitment to the environment.

You could even use engagement marketing techniques to spread the word about your corporate philanthropy efforts. Google did this when it installed large interactive posters around the Bay Area that residents could use to vote on which local charities the company should donate to. Through this initiative, Google received 400,000 votes in around three and a half weeks. You could use a similarly interactive approach to share your values at your next trade show.

5. Make It Shareable

Social media is a powerful promotional tool, especially when it comes to millennials. If you’re not incorporating social into your trade show experience, you are missing out.

Make sure you are posting on social media throughout the event. You should also have been posting about the show in the weeks leading up to it, and you’ll want to post some final thoughts after the event ends. Post pictures of your own booth and staff, other company’s displays, trade show events and more.

Several studies have shown Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for businesses to attract millennials. With 60 percent of users on Instagram being between 18 and 29 — and 42 percent of them using the app at least once every day — it’s the perfect place to market your company so millennials see it. So, be sure to use Instagram to advertise before, during and after a trade show.

When you post, use the event hashtag if it has one to make your content easy for others to find. You may also want to create your own unique hashtag for the event, which could be something as simple as your company’s name followed by the title and year of the event. It could also align with a current promotional campaign. Encourage event participants to use your hashtag by running a social media competition. You could, for instance, offer a prize to the user who posts the best picture using your hashtag.

You should also make your trade show readily shareable. Experiential elements can help with this, as people like to post pictures of themselves doing fun things. You could even add a branded photo booth to your display. Instagram makes it easy to post both photo and video content.

6. Use Visual Content

People are drawn to visuals, and they remember more information when it’s presented to them visually. Millennials especially seem to appreciate visual content — 72 percent of all consumers and 81 percent of millennials look for pictures and videos when shopping. Plus, more than 60 percent of young office workers say they remember information better when they get it visually, according to a survey by TechSmith.

Visual content is also more likely to get shares on social media — that’s why posting pictures and videos from trade shows is such a useful strategy. In addition to posting visual content on sites like Facebook and Twitter, use visually-oriented sites like Instagram. Encouraging user-generated visual content by creating visual and shareable displays and experiences may be even better. When someone posts a picture on social media that features your brand in a positive way, that image acts as a recommendation to all of the users’ online followers.

You can incorporate visuals into your trade show booth by using quality printed signage, banners and other elements, as well as videos. These elements can help capture the attention of event attendees and encourage them to share your content on social sites.

7. Have Lots of Information Available

As mentioned earlier, millennials often like to have all the facts before making a purchase decision. That means you need to have a lot of information about your company, products, services and other relevant topics ready for them.

That’s not to say, though, that you should greet them with a wall of text. Instead, you should only have the basic information up front. If someone wants to know more, they will ask. That’s when you can bring out all of the information you’ve prepared. Doing things this way will help you use your time more efficiently because you’ll only be explaining things to the people that truly want to hear it.

Prepare for your trade show by training the staff who will be attending in everything they might need to know. That way, they’re prepared to offer a quick answer to any questions. Responding quickly is important because you want to encourage the visitor before they lose interest.

You can also bring along promotional and educational materials, such as booklets and brochures on various topics you can hand out to those who ask about the topics they address. You should also gather contact information and hand out business cards, so you can send additional information to those who are interested.

8. Highlight Your Brand

Making your branding an integral part of your trade show display is useful for appealing to any age group of event attendees. It may be especially useful, though, when millennials are involved since they are so interested in getting to know the companies they buy from. They also tend to be loyal to brands once they find one they like.

If your brand is well-established and trade show attendees will recognize it, you could place just your logo front and center. You don’t have to worry about describing what your company does, because people already know. This gives you more room to present the information you’re focusing on at the event.

Most companies — especially smaller and newer ones — will need to provide a little more background. You should use your logo in your signage, along with your company name and a brief description of who you are and what you do. When people who are interested see this, they’ll approach your booth.

It’s also vital that all the elements of your display and the experience you create stay on brand. Don’t do anything just for the sake of doing it — make sure it contributes to your overall message. This helps event attendees develop a clear idea in their minds of what your brand stands for.

9. Make It Unique

Creativity is essential when preparing for a trade show. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, as unique and exciting displays will attract much more interest than conventional ones. Participants also will be much more likely to remember them, as they’ll stand out from the crowd.

Feel free to use events outside your trade show booth, too. Consider having someone from your company be a guest speaker at an existing conference event. Or, host your own event where you can try out new ideas.

Incorporating novel ideas caters to millennials’ penchant for being open-minded. They tend to enjoy finding new ways to do things and often seek out unique experiences, which they may share on social media.

How We Can Help

Signage, marketing materials and promotional products can all play essential roles in strategies for appealing to millennials at trade shows. We can help you find the perfect items for your next event.

At PrintGlobe, we provide a wide range of printing services and promotional products. From banners and businesses cards to branded pens and tins of mints, all our products are of the highest quality. We’ll also work with you to find the ideal trade show products for your needs and provide reliable, friendly service.

Place your order today through our easy-to-use online ordering system, or call or chat with us now to learn more. Our team is ready to help you choose products that will make your next trade show a success no matter who your target audience is.

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