The attendees at your next trade show probably won’t show up. Instead, they’ll sign in.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most businesses to bring in person meetings and conferences online, trade shows soon followed suit. “Attendee” avatars now roam virtual trade show booths in search of content that is both informative and engaging.

But while most businesses know how to make trade show booth materials informative, making them engaging is a different task entirely.

It’s easy to spot a successful booth in person: It’s cleverly crafted, crowded, and buzzing with energy. Meanwhile, other booths never seem to draw a crowd. What’s the difference?

Engagement. The promise of free swag or a fun game gives attendees a reason to walk over, while an empty booth suggests that nothing exciting is going on.

Though planning a virtual trade show might feel foreign to some, the same basic rules of engagement apply. Companies that offer activities in their virtual booths see far more traffic than those that do not, so make sure to prioritize fun.

Here are a few ways to make your virtual trade booth stand out on-screen using a simple engagement tactic: Games.

Use games to draw a virtual crowd at your company’s booth.

Whether virtual or in person, trade show booth games attract a steady stream of prospective customers and keep them around just long enough for you to present your product or service offerings.

What's more, games make the whole pitching process a fun endeavor for you and your customers — further increasing the possibility of converting them. Additionally, more visitors equal more social “proof.” People feel more comfortable “visiting” a booth that is crowded than a booth that looks deserted.

Come up with an exciting virtual trade show game.

Consider providing a digital prize wheel with the names of a company’s products placed around the wheel. A digital slot machine is another idea worthy of consideration. This can be especially impactful if it includes a company logo.

A digital scratch off game could feature the products a company wishes to highlight, while a virtual vault game allows attendees to try their hand at cracking a five-digit code. Memory games and interactive match card games are another way to entice attendees with fun at a virtual booth.

A magician could interact with booth participants, creating magic tricks around a brand or theme. In a hybrid virtual and physical event, a magician could appear in person during specific hours and virtual during others. The magician’s discourse could combine company information along with an entertaining element. A virtual escape game is similar to the real-life escape room concept. Participants answer clues to “escape” their circumstance.

Make your brand part of the game.

Regardless of how you publicize your game — on your website or in social media — your brand needs to shine. Whether you use your logo, tagline or other theme closely associated with your brand, a virtual or in person trade show game is a marketing promotion so it’s important for your brand to stand out. When possible, include your company phone number, URL or QR code, so virtual booth visitors know how to reach you later.

Offer activities that also serve as a lead generation tool.

Besides just being fun, games and activities can also support lead generation. In order to play a game, a potential customer could be required to complete a form providing his or her contact information.

Drawings are another way to build data for lead generation; just keep required information to a minimum so that you don’t turn people off. Contact information and a couple of product or service-related questions should suffice. If you choose other games to get people to your exhibit that don’t require such a form, you could gather this information via an additional prize drawing.

Excite attendees with prizes.

Product and service prizes are always appreciated by attendees and they help build buzz around a booth. Encourage people to come by your virtual booth by advertising that visitors will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize. Giveaways like this can be tied into an overall booth theme and provide an opportunity for the booth host’s company to follow up when they call the winner. It is generally a good idea to avoid cash prizes, in case there are any online gambling restrictions that may exist in the city or state of the virtual game participants.

Virtual trade show games provide cost effective ways companies can stand out in a virtual trade show. They also create a return of investment through brand engagement using digital game technology. Try these tactics at your next virtual trade show.