Total Recall: The Psychology of Being Memorable at Trade Shows

Remain in Their Brains

Download the Total Recall PDF

Countless exhibitors spend absurd amounts of time, money, and effort to stand out on the trade show floor, only to be forgotten by the time their prospects board their flights home.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of them. We’ll show you the science behind memory formation and techniques that you can use to remain top-of-mind with your prospects long after the show’s over.

Put an end to “I’m sorry, remind me who you are again?” during your post-show follow-up; download your copy now.

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Picture This...

You're at your event, about to step out onto the trade show floor. You've already spent countless hours planning and strategizing, thousands of dollars creating an eye-catching exhibit, and weeks rehearsing your sales pitch. In short, you're ready to knock it out of the park.

The problem? You're one of HUNDREDS of exhibitors at the event, with stimuli competing for people's attention in every direction: to your left, to your right, and even above your head (hanging signage, video walls). Panic begins to set in. How will you stand out like the unique snowflake that you are?

Unfortunately, human minds are often like dry-erase boards: we remember information for short periods (while it's relevant), then discard it when it's no longer needed. This is especially true at trade shows, where the potential for attendees' minds to be "wiped clean" increases with each successive interaction.

Fortunately, we've identified for you a collection of dialogue techniques that you can use to lay the groundwork for fruitful conversations at your next event. Find the technique that best suits you, then use it to get people talking about YOU for weeks to come.

Elephants May Never Forget...

... for humans, however, it's a little more complicated. In 1968, psychologists Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin described a process through which people store and recall short- and long-term memories (now known as the Multi-Store or Atkinson-Shiffrin Model). According to this model, our memories have limited capacity, and, as we learn new information, our brains put it into a "holding tank" – our short-term memory. As newer information enters, older short-term memories are pushed out. However, each time we recall an idea from short-term memory, its odds of becoming a long-term memory increase, because we associate the newer information with items already stored in our long-term memories.

In 1972, psychologist Endel Tulving suggested that long-term memory is comprised of two subclasses: conscious memory (Explicit Memory) and unconscious memory (Implicit Memory). Explicit Memory can be broken down even further; its two subclasses are Episodic Memory and Semantic Memory.

It's All About Me

Episodic Memory consists of personal experiences that occurred at a specific place or time. Think of it like your brain's home movie reel: the first time you rode a bike, your first crush, Christmas morning when you were 6 years old. Grupo Modelo does a fantastic job of associating their product – Corona beer – with a location that's nearly universal in people's episodic memories: the beach. You can do the same with your products, creating scenarios in which you connect your product to a time or place in your buyers' lives. If you can weave your product's benefits into someone's personal history, not only will that help him visualize using your product, he will be more likely to remember your product long after your conversation is over.

"Just the Facts"

Semantic Memory refers to general knowledge that we've accumulated throughout our lives: zebras are black and white, 2 + 2 = 4, London is the capital of England. Although it may seem more difficult to relate products to known facts, it can be done. For example, when you're injured, you must minimize blood loss. How can you do that? By reaching for a BAND-AID. (Kudos, Johnson & Johnson!) You too can capitalize on people's semantic memories; just link facts about your product or service to the facts of life, and you're set!

Like Riding a Bike

Implicit Memory, also called automatic memory, is a type of long-term memory that's recalled without requiring conscious thought, such as driving a car, getting dressed, or reciting the alphabet. Think about slogans: "Just Do It," "Eat Fresh," "I'm Lovin' It." Whenever you hear these phrases, your mind immediately recalls a company or product offering. Be memorable by sticking to a select few words you want to convey about your product or company. If your audience hears those key words or phrases often enough, then your sales pitch is more likely to stick in people's minds. Color association (ex: "Tiffany Blue,") and other branding techniques (such as font choice, à la Disney) also foster formation of implicit memories.

It Pays to Be First... and Last

The tendency for an individual to recall information presented to them based on when they heard it is known as the Serial Position Effect. This concept, coined by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885 (and later demonstrated in a 1962 study by B.B. Murdock), confirms that information is more memorable when it appears first or last in a series of items (as opposed to appearing in the middle, where it's likely to get muddled).

You Never Get a Second Chance...

We've all heard that first impressions are everything, because they set the tone for subsequent interactions. Did you know that this applies to the way you present your information, too? The Primacy Effect points out that, not only is information presented first more easily recalled, but it also influences our perception of information that follows. Since the first message your prospects hear is less likely to fade later on, begin your booth conversations with product benefits or features that align with your trade show goals.

Saving the Best for Last

When people recall the last items that appeared on a list, they're demonstrating the Recency Effect. Marketers take advantage of this all the time, ending advertisements with strong benefits and positive messages. End your conversations with a "wow" moment, and you'll remain top of mind when your prospects are ready to buy.

Thanks for the Memories

Some memories last a lifetime, but the "memories" made at trade shows often fade before attendees make it home. Knowing what to say, how to say it, and the order in which to say it will give you a huge advantage over your competitors (plus, it's way better than just giving out free pens!). It's not hard to be memorable; all it takes is a little psychology.