One night after working for a client Microsoft TechEd in New Orleans I wandered down to the French Quarter to Bourbon Street. If you have never been, Bourbon Street is a colorful mix of booze, beads and debauchery.

Every night of the week tourists get to experience a tiny taste of the excitement and energy of Mardi Gras.  As you wander down this narrow street filled with strip clubs and bars you can’t help but notice all the colorful neon signs and beautiful balconies. Then it dawned on me. This is just like a trade show and perhaps there is something we can learn from this iconic street.

The bars on Bourbon Street make their money from selling drinks of course. Their challenge is how to generate more potential customers (leads) per hour. They successfully use the following strategies that may be familiar to trade show veterans.


Whether it’s the souvenir cups and mugs or the beers by the yard, Bourbon Street has no shortage of tchotchkes. Of course the most classic of all New Orleans giveaways is the colorful beads that are thrown from the 2nd floor balconies. In addition to the beads there are the souvenir cups and other, drinking related gifts. Bar owners have learned that giveaways secure attention and generate interest from other attendees/pedestrians.


If you have ever looked down Bourbon Street one can’t help but notice the eye catching neon signs. Their signage is eye-catching and to the point. After all anything but being succinct would be a waste of neon tubing. Exhibitors can learn from this example and make their signage as simple as it needs to be.

Crowd Gatherers-

Walking past the seedier places you can’t help but notice men dressed in all black who beckon you to check out the “shows” inside. Those establishments have realized through trial and error that having someone out front, promoting the interior activities increases their conversion rate. Having a live human being(s) on the perimeter of your booth to encourage involvement and to offer a personal invitation will increase the number of booth visitors and presentation attendance.

Just as these “bouncers with benefits” have learned that there is a knack to ushering people so to do real crowd gatherers. Make sure you hire professional crowd gatherers. These men and women know how to go about it.  Just because Cindy from accounting is good with people and you put her on the aisle doesn’t mean she will increase your booth attendance.

Booth Entertainment-

All of the bars on Bourbon St. make their money by selling alcohol. Their challenge is to keep their bars full of drinking patrons. To entice a constant flow of new customers the bars offer entertainment usually in the form of music. On any given night there are 50+ musicians working. The live music and energy make the bar attractive to passersby. No matter how impressive you think your product or service, your booth traffic can always be helped by giving attendees additional reasons to stop and check you out. Using booth entertainment in the form of a game, magician/infotainer, or even a celebrity appearance generates that added focus that can benefit your booth.

The above techniques may be nothing new, but they are tried and true and have passed the most important test of all…do they work in the real world. The answer is a definitive yes!

Next time you are in the French Quarter remember this post. If you have been down that famous street before, I challenge you to add to my list of parallels .

Who Dat!