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This Is The One Marketing Mistake Everyone Is Making at Trade Shows Getting the most from a trade show audience requires a strategic approach, so follow this advice from an industry insider.

By Trevor Rappleye Edited by Carl Stoffers

Key Takeaways

  • A small percentage of exhibitors at the International Franchise Association's annual convention utilized video content.
  • There's a need for brief, impactful, and visually engaging videos in a trade show environment.
  • Shooting raw video footage onsite at the event emphasizes the power of capturing authentic, in-the-moment interactions.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I'll never forget the first time I attended a franchise-related trade show. In 2019, I maxed out another credit card to register for the International Franchise Association's annual convention. I had landed a couple of project videos for some franchise brands and knew I needed to learn more about the industry if I was to create quality video content on their behalf.

The trade show floor at the annual IFA Convention was overwhelming – even bigger in person than I'd expected. I was determined to see all of it over the next three days, to pick as many brains as I could because I clearly needed an education. But it didn't take me long to notice that I wasn't the only one who could use some pointers. Even though I've been in the video marketing business since my early teens, I grew increasingly surprised as I passed through one section of the floor to another. The exhibitors, which range from everything from emerging brands to funders, consultants, vendors, and suppliers all appeared to have one thing in common. There was no high-resolution imagery displayed. In fact, by my count, roughly five percent of them were utilizing any form of video content in their trade show booths.

It was right then and there that I realized that I had a value proposition to offer the franchising industry.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

The fundamental aspect of a trade show booth

Companies – franchisors in particular – spend a good deal of money to exhibit at the industry's wide variety of trade shows. Floor space doesn't come cheap, and brands typically set out with the best of intentions when it comes to recouping their investment. These reserved spaces only offer a minimal amount of space to captivate the thousands and thousands of trade show attendees – and you've got to make the most of every inch. Once you get beyond staffing the booth with your most gregarious sales representatives, there's the requisite table, banners, signage, and brand collateral to think about. This is a golden opportunity to showcase who you are, what your brand represents, and how you have something of value to offer to an extremely captivated audience. Months of planning often go into the design, layout, and execution of exactly how you'll present yourself to the masses. But to forego any type of video content in the trade show booth? That makes no sense at all. Seven-eighths of our knowledge comes from visual cues. So, it stands to reason that video is the best possible way to showcase your brand's value proposition, key differentiators, and provide your target audience with the social proof you need to communicate a compelling story.

Related: 5 Tips for First-Time IFA Convention Attendees

Know before you go

Long before the trade show kicks off, and you're still in the planning stages of creating your video content, there are a few hard and fast truths you need to understand. The most important factor to consider is the short amount of time you'll have to make an impression with video — perhaps as little as five seconds for attendees casually strolling by. And you can forget about audio, music, or voiceover narration. Most trade show floors are crowded, noisy, and crammed with endless branding and messaging collateral, easily capable of causing sensory overload.

To get the attention of your prospective target audience, videos must be brief, eye-catching, impactful, and branded. Any caption layovers must be short, clear, and easily digestible to the naked eye. Everything you shoot must be edited down to a concise clip that differentiates your brand's value proposition amidst an endless sea of options.

Related: Why Franchise Brands Need to Start Utilizing Video Marketing

Creating a sensory experience through video

Whether it's a trade show, convention, or expo, the floor is typically packed with exhibitors, each vying for the attention of the passing attendees. How do you create a sensory experience that draws people in and makes them want to learn more about your brand? To borrow a quote from Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, a top naval commander in the Pacific Theatre in World War II: "Hit Hard! Hit Fast! And Hit Often!"

Initially, you've got to grab their attention before you can showcase your product or service in a way that piques curiosity and is capable of spurring an interaction. The first few seconds of your video content must present strong, clear graphics, as well as high-energy clips and edits that can excite, attract, and engage – before following up with a call to action. Carefully crafted videos – no more than one to three minutes in length – that play on an endless loop are highly recommended. And it's also advisable to have more than one video display, in an elevated position to draw attention from multiple directions.

Selling a product? Develop videos that go beyond product placement and show it in action. Demonstrate its' capabilities, while using clear captions to explain its value proposition in writing. Selling a service? Create a brief – but impactful – montage that demonstrates the process of the service you're selling. Use storytelling and visual cues to highlight the customer's journey in patronizing the service you provide.

Shoot onsite

A well-crafted video for your booth, designed with the trade show audience in mind, can give you a decided edge against the competition. But your dedication to utilizing video shouldn't end before the trade show kicks off. It can be a wise investment to consider shooting raw video and scenes right there on the convention floor. Any footage captured during the event can pay untold dividends on the back end. Brands with plenty of onsite content can distill these videos into a montage or "sizzle reel," which can then be repurposed for follow-up opportunities, via email, your website, future blogs, or even social media posts, because nothing tells a brand story like your sales efforts in action.

Related: How to Effectively Utilize Video in Your Franchise Brand's Marketing Strategy

About the author

Trevor Rappleye has been an entrepreneur since 2003 - beginning his first company at age 13, converting VHS to DVD and filming family events. As the president and CEO of, he's obsessed with storytelling, leadership, video marketing and filming social proof for brands and franchisors. The company includes A-list clients such as Neighborly, CVS, Home Depot, ADP, and FASTSIGNS. For more information on FranchiseFilming's VIP Subscription Model with no travel fees, no scripts and videos in just 10 days, visit
Trevor Rappleye

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Storyteller

Trevor Rappleye has been an entrepreneur since 2013 - beginning his first company at age 13 converting VHS to DVD. He now owns & and is obsessed with storytelling, leadership, video marketing and filming social proof for brands.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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