San Diego Comic Con

Big Showmanship at SDCC, Conventions and Trade Shows

In Articles by Wendy Buske

San Diego Comic Con at the convention center. Photo by Adron Buske.At San Diego Comic-Con, it’s easy to “blend in”. Fans, professionals, press, all creeds, colors, ethnicities and GoT houses are represented. Business people in suits walk alongside Optimus Primes on the con floor, and no one bats an eye. For the casual con-goer, this can be a charming and very comfortable melting pot.

For an exhibitor looking to promote a brand, product or service, though, the last thing you want is to blend into the (very colorful) scenery.

The big guys with the big booths and the free swag will always take the lion’s share of the attention at SDCC (or any big convention), while you fight for eyes on your 3-to-8 feet of table display. Whether you’re an artist sketching in the alley or a retailer at the back of the hall, getting noticed presents a serious challenge unless you have a built-in audience seeking you out.

However, as the savvy folks from Baby Tattoo stated in their Big Showmanship panel at SDCC 2013, there is an opportunity to make an impact if you’re not afraid to take chances. San Diego and the other big cons are the venues to embrace the cliche “go big or go home”.

Focused on standing out from the crowd, the Big Showmanship panel opened with a man in a straitjacket swallowing swords. I’d say they take “standing out” pretty seriously, and it succeeded in making their point. They engaged the crowd and received a big reaction. Such a stunt could easily backfire in the wrong setting with a different audience. Failures happen to everyone; finding what works for you and your business is the key. Know that your first few attempts may not hit the mark, but don’t be afraid to fail. You may never know how to succeed until you go through the daunting process of trial and error.

So what can you do? How can you make yourself seen?

Jefbot San Diego Comic Con booth display. Photo by Adron Buske.Take a break from your booth and see how your neighbors and competitors present themselves. What is working for those similar to you? What isn’t? Don’t copy what they do, of course, but make note of the good stuff and incorporate that influence to level-up your presentation.

Look up! Don’t sit idly behind the table, shoe gazing or fiddling with your phone. Just standing up and making eye contact with people can make a huge impact. Engaging attendees with a friendly greeting, a sincere compliment or a funny pitch can draw in people who might otherwise look past your booth. Be friendly and confident, but not aggressive. Don’t harass people or beg them to come over. Invite people in, don’t scare them away.

Change and Re-Arrange. Try new setups at every con until you find the one that receives the best response. Get a feel for the audience and update your display each day of the con, as well. If visitors have been responding strongly to a particular item or print, make it more visible.

San Diego Comic Con booth display. Photo by Adron Buske.Cons generate sensory overload for visitors, so be colorful but tasteful, not overwhelming. Be bold enough to get noticed, but don’t throw so much at passers-by that they can’t focus in on what’s important. Don’t distract them from your message or what you’re selling.

Challenge the norm. What would you love to see at a con but rarely do? Be the booth that adds something original to the mix. Incorporate video, costumes, games, performance, or even something as simple as a bold backdrop or tablecloth – whatever!

Just make people “see” you and hold their attention long enough to cement their interest.

Regardless of the method you choose or the chances you take, remember that it’s all a crapshoot. You will have good shows and bad shows. You can’t always control the circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Be bold, flexible and never stop learning and adapting. Eventually, you’ll find what methods work best for your business.