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Although the term “crowdsourcing” didn’t enter the modern dictionary until coined by Wired magazine’s contributing editor Jeff Howe in 2006, the general idea has been around forever. Crowdsourcing, at its most basic level, is about collaborative thinking towards a common goal. When you don’t have the answers or resources, you find someone who does or a group of people whose collective knowledge holds the key to your puzzle.By definition, crowdsourcing is when a business or organization takes a job usually performed by a designated internal team or individual and outsources it to an undefined group of people in the form of an open call. Some call it “open innovation” while others think of it simply as an extension of the open source concept of the ‘90s. Whatever it’s called, it works. Entire research and development teams of some businesses now consist of crowdsourcing. Small businesses no longer have to pay large fees to designers or creative consultants. Many businesses now use crowdsourcing to develop new products based on direct input from the target audience. And now … your business can use the crowdsourcing concept to enhance the trade show booth for attendees. Consider these ideas:

  • Crowdsource your trade show giveaways
    Take to e-mail marketing to distribute a poll to trade show attendees on which of your business’s products attendees want to see the most or which swags items they’d most like to receive. Run the gamut of swag options from Pens to Lanyards to something a little more fun and unique, like MagLites or Golf Balls emblazoned with your logo. Giving attendees buy-in to the products they can see or the gifts they can receive is sure to entice them to stop by your booth and strike up a conversation.
  • Crowdsource your trade show booth theme
    Hold an internal team contest to determine the theme of your business’s next trade show booth. Ask team members to submit ideas via e-mail and then compile the ideas, brainstorm two to three swag items for each and bring it back to the table for final voting. The winning entrants could win a small gift, like a Sport Flier or a Tote. Be sure each member of the team gets the winning swag item, too.
  • Use social media to crowdsource questions throughout the trade show
    Prior to the next trade show, mention in direct mailings or other promotions that your business will be at a trade show fielding questions via your Facebook or Twitter accounts and encourage them to follow and participate for the chance to win prizes like a Travel Mug or a T-shirt. Be sure to share the Twitter hashtag for the trade show or, if one has not been created, make one up! The day of the event, be sure to monitor your social media platforms and hashtags to respond and repost questions. Keep an eye on Foursquare™ for users checking into the trade show and reach out to them, too.
  • Poll booth visitors and show results in real time
    As trade show attendees stop by your booth, ask them a question about the trade show, where they are from, the industry, a product or even what restaurant they plan to visit that evening. Then, post results in real time using a laptop and an LCD screen or projector displayed at your booth. Doing so increases your booth’s interactivity, presents an opportunity to launch a conversation with passersby, and may even incite a little competition between attendees.

Crowdsourcing is a great way to get attendee buy-in so that people feel engaged. It’s also a way to expand your presence through harnessing the creativity of minds within your team and beyond. For any businesses wishing to engage trade show attendees while demonstrating a little thought leadership, crowdsourcing may be the way to go—check out our Blue Paper® on Crowdsourcing for more ideas.


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