Trade Show Engagement Tactics At 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show

Posted by Rob Campbell on February 27th, 2016

Outdoor Adventure ShowTrade show engagement tactics are something the Surround blog has tackled before, but studying this discipline continues to be a great source of inspiration for this author and our digital marketing agency.

On Saturday 20th Feb 2016, I attended the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, and took note of the most interesting ‘introduction schemes’ I spied at work here. Every year this conference changes a little bit. The event marketing concoctions developed at this show get a little more daring, more digital and yet are surprisingly dynamic as they react to new technology and market conditions; everyone here knows their engagement strategies can mean the difference in the success or failure of their exhibition expenditures.

Why do outdoor adventure businesses bother with trade shows?

Business owners and executives rent booths at trade shows and business conventions to advertise select services, display new products, sell franchises or dealerships, and meet consumers. They’re here because it works; getting out and meeting people and making relationships is key to the success of any business venture. Advanced engagement tactics can double or triple the volume of interactions and possibly even increase the quality of each encounter.

As described on HeadsUp Dad, The Outdoor Adventure Show is for Kids, vendors are keenly aware they need to offer distractions when it comes to attracting young families.

A Simple Sugar for Data Model

chance of winning - ipad - contest entry - insured prizingLook here at the picture on the right. This is the quintessential trade show contest offering that I spotted at the show. A travel agency offers up a bowl of candy and a paper form to enter and win ‘a trip around the world’. For a bit of sugar, and the chance to win a big prize, they hope to capture each attendee’s name, age, gender, occupation, home address, and email. The lady in the booth told me that hundreds of people have already signed up because the prize is so amazing, but I suspect she’s only had about thirty or forty legible submissions, and these from the trade show’s poorest candidates in terms of future business prospecting.

Traditional logic would suggest that the odds of winning an under-utilized contest like this are higher, but in reality such offerings are usually scions of a larger international challenge whereby the entrants play against hundreds of thousands of other such trade show attendees worldwide. Or, it could be an insured prizing model where contestants play against a machine that often returns no winners. Also and this is important, the pen is missing. I couldn’t sign up even if I wanted to.

Regardless of its inefficiencies, I’m offering up this simple model of the quintessential trade show contest paradigm; a bit of candy and a sign up form to catch each person’s details is a standard sugar for data gambit, and this model is repeated throughout the modern trade show experience.

Below is Tucantravel doing the same thing but much better, and on a bigger scale.


Tucantravel used an ipad powered contest to capture consumer details, and was giving away much better SWAG along with brochures and travels deals (up to 20% off every travel package). People gave up their details in the contest entry on the iPad for a chance to win a two week all expenses paid vacation in Costa Rica. No pen was required to sign up for this contest.

There are lots of young families at the Outdoor Adventure Show because the event was marketed on radio and TV and it was advertised that families get discounts;  the deal was adults pay $14 each and children age eleven and under get in free.  So the entire affair always becomes something of a free play zone for kids with vendors offering up interesting puzzles and toys to occupy young minds while they talk shop with parents.

Adventure Convention Organizers Included Activities for Young People

tradeshow passport for prizesThe Outdoor Adventurers Passport is made for young families to give their kids purpose at the show. With a paper passport in hand and its mission top of mind, children can drive the experience collecting stamps (paw prints) from vendors for prizes at the end of the day. A completed passport could be turned in for both short term rewards and a chance of winning a much bigger prize later.

This is a fantastic value add engagement tactic for vendors; this gambit effortlessly draws in families with young children. The passport is also an ice breaker with an easy greeting ritual and friendly exchange that makes it real easy to talk afterwards.

A Spinning Wheel Captures Kids’ Imaginations and Dispenses Coupons

SpintheWheel1The Spin the Wheel Game for Coupons and instant win prizes is a trade show classic. This one seen on the right was operated by Tourism Toronto and dispensed SUP vouchers, gift certificates, and coloring books. This was a very popular amusement.

Senior attendants hung back and worked the parents by giving away brochures and the gift certificate prizes that their children won by spinning the wheel. Parents happily gave up their names and email addresses in order to collect their children’s prize rewards.

The contest model is well used by big and small players. The best examples are done by magazines and radio stations which advertise contests in advance of the show with prizes available at the attraction.

Adventures in Paddling theatre was packed most of the day. The venue was surrounded by the latest model SUPs or Stand Up Paddle Boards, canoes and kayaks for sale, and on the far side of the opening stood the Rapid Media booth with giant posters displaying their magazine titles.

Rapid Media Makes SUP Paddlers Best Kayak Buyer’s Guide

Kayak1sharablemoment2Rapid Media has done well in the paddling space with four popular magazines, Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Kayak Angler, and Rapid the whitewater magazine. The print publications are filled with real life travel stories, photos, videos and professional gear reviews from expert paddlers all over the world. Some of the editorial staff were present at the show selling half price annual subscriptions.

These guys gave me an insider link to the online kayak reviews, 2016 paddling buyer’s guide. which was considered one of the big secrets of the show.

Rapid Media had some all-ages engagement strategies at play, and in the age of shareable moments the magazine title cardboard cutouts were really busy, especially the ‘Wild Women’ Adventure Kayak magazine cutout seen at right.

Xcitelife Listed Attendees Adventure Fantasies

Xcitelife at the Outdoor Adventure Show People could not get down the center aisle without being confronted by the giant list of fun things to do at Xcitelife. The active adventure company has a dynamic ‘sharing economy’ business model symbolized by a giant red X (which stands for experience and not extreme). Their charismatic greeters stood under company signage drumming up excitement for their experience marketplace.

Xcitelife signed up many new users by offering a contest tied to a new outlook on life. Like most revolutionary new business concepts Xcitelife also dispenses a new more satisfying state of mind. New members were asked to write their dream vacation aspirations on red paper X’s which the Xcitelifers pinned to their giant dream board. The 6×6 corkboard soon displayed the travel fantasies of the entire trade show, and it was from this soft wooden pane that a prize winner was eventually selected. “Everyone wants to live an Xciting life, but too often folks get stuck in the ordinary” says Paul Peic. “At Xcitelife we’ve made it our mission to transform lives through experiences.” More pictures and details about Xcitelife at the Outdoor Adventure Show on this Life as a Human article.

Nothing Satisfies A Crowd Like Cured Meat Samples

DDmeats2aOutdoor adventure enthusiasts love cured meats and D&D Meats were among the only food vendors at the show. Their engagement tactic was simply offering up a giant plate of preserved meat cubes for public consumption and almost everyone who sampled the spread bought something for their supper.

There’s more information about D&D Meats and even a close up of a turkey salami ingredients label in the article about the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show on Toronto Guardian.

In summary, the trade show engagement tactics at the Outdoor Adventure Show are worth studying in their diversity and efficacy at helping exhibitors get noticed.  The best strategies satisfy an immediate need, and leave participants with a sense of accomplishment. They probably plant a compelling travel fantasy, pique wandering notions and generally instill in everyone a more satisfying sense of themselves and their future adventures outside.