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Games and competitions are a great way to attract people to your stand at an expo or event. Entering a competition requires a couple of minutes of their time – minutes during which you can chat to them and see if there is any immediate opportunity to assist them. Besides the face-to-face contact, you will also gather potential ‘leads’ depending on your entry method.

In this post, we’ll talk you through common competitions to run at an expo, what to avoid and what works best.

How do I create a competition for an expo or event?

First and foremost, think of your target demographic – are they school leavers or c-suiters? What appeals to one group may not appeal to another, so always keep your ideal client in mind when designing a competition for an event.

Next, have a quick think about your ideal outcome from the event – are you trying to build up a huge database of contacts that you will slowly segment and nurture or do you want to conduct some face-to-face research on your latest products?

Once you know who you want to attract and why, it’s time to work out your how – how are you going to collect the entries? Choose an entry method that will help you achieve your goal (i.e. if you want emails, an enter your email to win competition is a good start) and set up any apps/plugins/tools you need in order to collect entries at the expo.

TIP: We’d highly recommend sticking to just asking for the entrants’ name and email as you keep the entry process as easy as possible. If you’re with Mailchimp, they have a seriously nifty, free tool called Mailchimp Subscribe, which lets you collect entries at the event or expo on a phone or tablet and sends them straight to your mailing list.

We created this MailChimp Subscribe form for East Forged. They wanted to collect additional leads for their competition while they were exhibiting at Melbourne Tea Festival.

They received 142 entries throughout the day and said next time they would use 2 iPads!

What about a card drop competition?

We’ve all seen them, we’ve probably all entered them – the classic card drop competition.

”Enter your business card to Win 2 Nights at a 5* Luxury Hotel!”.

It’s super easy for someone to pop a card in as they swoop in for a free pen and swoop out again. Card drops are absolutely fantastic for gathering a large amount of ‘leads’… but therein lies the problem.

Here’s why card drop competitions at expos or events are a bad idea:

  • You get a LOT of cards from people who just want the prize, they may not have even read your company name or bothered to find out what you do – the leads are totally unqualified.
  • You (or most likely your poor assistant) will then have to enter the details of every single one of those cards into your database – not only is this time consuming but it’s completely pointless if you never plan to do anything with those details or you have no idea if they’re even your target demographic.
  • Card drops are utterly forgettable – think about the last event you went to, how many stalls were asking for your contact details this way?
  • Did you know that you may require a licence to run a card drop competition in some states in Australia? Because a card drop competition is a game of chance, if your prize pool is valued at over $3,000 – you’ll need to apply for licences.

So what would be a better expo competition idea?

Sorry for trashing your dreams of an overflowing bowl chock full of business cards and new leads… But don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you hanging, here are some tips on running an effective competition or giveaway at your next expo or event.


The most popular stands at trade shows are the ones where there’s a lot of activity and buzz. Whether it’s a particularly charismatic stand owner, super valuable information or a popular giveaway gimmick, crowds attract crowds.

Consider running a game of skill that requires your stand visitors your interact with you and your business as well as other visitors. They might start cheering each other on to win or ignite some friendly competition as they try and outskill each other for the prize. You’ll not only learn valuable information about your audience in the process, but you’ll also avoid the need for licences.

Check out an example of how Mezic Studio did this at a recent expo.


Keep people coming back – if you run multiple draws on the hour every hour for example, people will keep coming back to see if they’re the lucky winner this time around. Not only will it get you that sought-after crowd, but you’ll start to build a relationship with those who keep coming back.


You’ve just walked in to a giant hall full of stands, who do you approach first, the couple sat behind a sparse table covered in brochures, or the giant ‘spin the wheel to win’ covered in twinkly lights?!

We’re not suggesting you blow the budget with gimmicks, but we are encouraging you to be bold. What about a leaderboard of high scores/winners that changes throughout the day as people come back to compete? It will definitely catch people’s attention and draw them to your stand.


If you can, brand your expo giveaways or prizes – not only will they love you for giving them a useful prize, but they’ll remember your business as it’s written clearly across the prize.

If you’re not giving away trinkets or instant prizes at the event, remember that the best product or service you can offer is almost (as in 99.9% of the time) always your own product or service. Don’t resort to iPad giveaways.


Although it’s (mostly) all about the prize or the reward for your visitors, if you make the entry process just as fun and exciting as the prize, people will remember you and your brand and the positive emotions associated with with your expo competition.

Make sure you chat to people as they queue up to enter, don’t go straight for the hard sell, get to know them so you can assess whether they are your ideal demographic or not. Leave them with a great impression of your brand.


Really promote the fact you’re running a competition on your stand – get balloons that spell out WIN or print out some big A0 posters advertising your competition

TIP: go to Kmart/Big W and buy sticky-back Velcro, best invention ever to stick posters to the walls of stands!

Enjoying our expo competition guide?

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At the end of the day, it’s your expo stand so you’re free to run a competition however you see fit… even if that means running a card drop competition. We’d recommend an interactive experience though, as they always attract a crowd – so if you can have people enter in a fun way, like a game, you’ll always have people queued up to enter which gives you the perfect opportunity to chat to them and suss out whether you’d be a good fit for each other.

If you want more tailored ideas for expo competitions for your brand get in touch with us or book in a free strategy session with our competition nerds.