I had an interesting first experience with trade shows, sadly lacking in comfortable flooring like EVA foam mats for my sore 10 year-old feet, but it makes for a fun story. Coincidentally, it was also for my first job—I made balloon animals. I was about ten, and to my parents’ chagrin, I was absolutely enamored with the squeakiest possible hobby a ten year-old could have. Fortunately, it was adorable in the esteem of people who didn’t have to be around it all day, so I managed to make a little money doing it. I got a handful of gigs around my city, mostly at birthday parties, and had my first experience with the minimum wage (which was $5-something at the time). The first big show I did was not really my show at all, but a table I staffed at a trade show for a home security system company. I had never been on my feet for that length of time, and some foam mats would have been nice. I imagine the vendor probably thought so too.
There is, of course, no specific connection between balloon poodles, foam mats, and home security (just get a real dog), but the man who owned the business knew how to make the trade show work for him. The company knew their audience: homeowners with children that would be eager and willing to drag their parents (by force if necessary) to the booth that was handing out the balloon animals. And these parents would allow themselves to be dragged because home security was an issue for them. And an adorable kid in a bowtie making balloon animals for their kids is frankly irresistible.
Using my skills was a clever strategy, but the vendor could have done even better with the addition of attractive EVA foam. Not enough trade show travelers take advantage of this aesthetic component of trade show booths. A homeowner with a child is going to be more likely to want to purchase a home security system, so have a little element at your booth that’s going to attract children, who will then drag their parents behind them. And if the parents step into the booth and experience 3/8” of soft EVA foam mats, they’re more comfortable and more likely to stay awhile. So it’s worth spending time considering your audience as you prepare for your next trade show, as your audience there might be just a little bit different from your typical advertising audience. It might just call for something a little bit more creative (maybe squeaky??) and definitely something more comfortable.