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Want to Get People to Your Tradeshow Booth? Be Bold.

Last week, I headed to New York City for the International Franchise Expo (IFE), held at the Javits Center June 15-17. I usually spend a majority of my time at tradeshows saying hello to clients, attending educational sessions, and sampling all the gluten-free goodies I can find, but IFE was a little different. We only had a handful of clients attend this year and the event and its sessions were geared more toward the first-time franchise buyer. I had a fair amount of time on my hands.

So I decided to walk down every aisle of the tradeshow floor — three or four times — to see what concepts were out there. Specifically, I was looking for those that were “pitchable,” meaning that I and the rest of the Fish team could sell their story to national media. Because as PR reps, that’s what fuels us — getting the big media wins for our clients.

Of course, it was nearly impossible to know which of the 400+ concepts at IFE had good stories, so I had to judge a book by its cover. I quickly realized that if you want to get people to your booth, you need to be bold. You need to do things like:

Have a live demonstration of back waxing.

Yep, I’m looking at you, Uni K Wax. And based on the 10 minutes I stood there talking to you about why this guy wasn’t freaking out having his back hair waxed, you did a superb job of getting at least me to your booth.

Offer complimentary eyebrow threading.

Because you can’t certainly buy a franchise like that without knowing what eyebrow threading is like, right? Well, thanks to Idolize, I not only have, as the 20-somethings say, eyebrows “on fleek,” but also understand how much better eyebrow threading is for you than waxing. (Which I didn’t know. It’s a story dying to be told!)

Construct a 12-foot climbing wall.

(Or maybe it was 16 feet.) Had I been aware there would have been something as awesome as this, I wouldn’t have only packed dresses. Super bummed. But there’s seriously no better way to get parents to take a few minutes to talk about franchise opportunities (or a 31-year-old woman with the soul of a 15-year-old) than by offering to let their kids climb a giant wall. Well played, ClimbZone.

Recreate a storefront — with chocolate. Like, lots of it.

Chocolate Moonshine Co. basically set up an entire pop-up shop full of deliciously creamy Moonshine Bars and gourmet fudge. It was a huge space and gave attendees a great feel for the brand. And they entertained my requests to try multiple samples.

Make it so they can’t look away.

I might just be intrigued by morbid things, but every time I walked by the Steri-Clean booth, I was trying to gather up the courage to say, “Please explain this.” Steri-Clean is, in a nutshell, a concept specializing in crime scene cleanup, hoarding and biohazard services, and decontamination. You can only image the images printed on the booth backdrop — which were what drew me in. I finally said to one of the founders, “I didn’t realize this was franchiseable. I need to know more about this.” And isn’t that the goal — to be so bold people have to ask you what you’re all about?