For vendors and suppliers in the maritime industry, the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans is an incredible annual opportunity to showcase your business and network with other industry leaders. Whether you’re going to exhibit at this year’s show or in the future, you’ll want to plan how you can make a lasting impression on the commercial vessel owners, operators, builders, and other attendees in your target audience.

Keep reading for our exhibition experts’ advice to make the most of your trade show booth at the International WorkBoat Show 2024 in New Orleans—alongside the maritime industry’s top marine trade shows across the country.

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Exhibiting at the International WorkBoat Show 2024

If you want your booth to perform its best at the International WorkBoat Show 2024 and other marine industry trade shows, you’ll want to keep in mind the specifics of these trade shows, their audience, and the venue. Our experts are here to help with a few of our key insights.

Consider the Venue’s Key Areas

A Cardinal customer's exhibit at WorkBoat, one of the marine trade shows we work at each year

The International WorkBoat Show is hosted annually at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. You can download the 2024 show floor plan directly from the International WorkBoat Show’s Exhibiting Info Kit.

With this information in hand, you can strategize your ideal location around key areas:

  • Showroom entrances receive the most foot traffic. Highly visible to attendees when they are first entering the showroom, spots near the entrances allow you to grab people’s attention before they are fatigued from looking at too many displays. They also help you make a final impression on people as they leave.
  • Bathrooms and food spots also draw attendees throughout the day. Especially in New Orleans, food is a major attraction and sure to get attention.
  • Major intersections and busy corners require a little more time to identify. This can mean they may not get booked up as quickly as spots near entrances, bathrooms, or food, making them a good alternative. If there is any prominent signage with maps, directions, or schedules, you’ll be sure to find attendees stopping by those areas as well.
  • Complementary displays to your own can help expose your offerings to a relevant audience. If you are not in direct competition for business but have offerings that would complement one another, consider networking and potentially coordinating with other exhibitors. Or if there is a major company or flashy display drawing in attendees, setting up next door can give you access to their traffic.

To find out which spaces are available, be sure to contact a sales representative at the International WorkBoat Show.

If spots near the entrances, bathrooms, and food at your chosen marine trade shows are all taken, you can ask for their input on where any major intersections, busy corners, maps, directions, or schedules are located. Ask if a list of other vendors and suppliers is available so you can look for complementary displays to your own (and avoid direct competitors).

It also never hurts to ask if there is a backup list for those valuable spots. If another exhibitor drops out of the show, you could get lucky with a premium location for your booth.

Focus on Booth Design

A customer booth at one of the marine industry trade shows in their program, laid out with product information, high seating, and a video display

First and foremost, the golden ticket to any successful trade show is almost always constructing a booth environment that is appealing, eye-catching, and conducive to visitor interaction. No matter how good your business’ offerings may be in a vacuum, every sale and conversion hinges on getting potential clients to engage with your booth in the first place. For that reason, learning how to make a trade show booth stand out should be every vendor’s top priority.

There are countless unique ways to invest in your trade show booth design, regardless of whether you decide to rent, buy, or build your booth from the ground up. Because of the versatility, affordability, and scalability of rented booths, most vendors choose to rent and lightly customize their booths with the help of trusted partners like Cardinal Expo, who can assist with not only design, but also shipping, setup, logistics, warehousing, and managing third-party show services.

A flow chart guiding you on whether you should buy or rent a trade show booth

Once you’ve settled on the size and format of your display, your goal is to optimize every square foot with personality, creativity, and relevant brand messaging. Because hundreds of other booths at the convention are all operating within the same industry, figuring out how to distinguish your booth thematically is a productive challenge that works to strengthen your connection to your target audience. Incorporate eye-catching branded materials such as vertical displays, signs, banners, and promotional materials in order to draw the attention of attendees at WorkBoat and other marine trade shows.

Showcase Sought-After Products

According to survey data collected by the International WorkBoat Show itself, these are the top 10 products that visitors reported wanting to see at the trade show:

  1. Boatbuilding/Repair
  2. Boatbuilding Materials
  3. Electrical Systems & Components
  4. Electronics — Navigation
  5. Services
  6. Above Deck — Equipment/Hardware/Systems
  7. Below Deck — Equipment/Hardware/Systems
  8. Electronics — Communications
  9. Propulsion/Steering Systems
  10.  Safety/Survival

First and foremost, your trade show booth should be straightforward, clean, and easy to understand. A well-organized, branded booth can help prospective customers see your products, learn about your services, and build recognition with your company.

A customer booth for Caterpillar at WorkBoat Show New Orleans

When arranging your display table, it is still important to follow the usual best practices. Use varying levels to increase product visibility, placing the shortest products in front, medium-sized in the middle, and larger items in the back.

The data above can help you customize your trade show booth for the International WorkBoat Show’s audience. Highlight the types of products that these attendees most want to see, emphasize any services that support those types of products, and prepare staff that are going to be working your trade show booth on relevant talking points for this audience.

Connect with Your Target Audience

The International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans is right around the corner, with attendees from all over the world eager to connect with businesses like yours. In thinking through the larger picture of booth design, you’ll want to construct a space that is both inviting and conducive to meaningful engagement, allowing your guests to linger and spend extended periods of time interacting with your offerings.

You may want to consider adding:

  • Sitting areas with ample furniture (especially bar stools and counter stools, which keep users at standing height to encourage more interaction)
  • Product demo spaces
  • A/V presentation elements

These additions can better keep potential customers comfortable and engrossed. While it requires space and other resources to include these interactive elements, they will almost always increase your business’ conversion rates and will offer you a better ROI than booths that are purely informational and static. If you have the resources to do so, always follow the motto to “show, don’t tell.”

For example, at a marine electronics trade show, potential customers will want to get a good sense of the technology they’re thinking about investing in. Set up spaces where visitors can see your equipment in action, demonstrating your products’ physical specs, cutting-edge capabilities, UX design, and more. This way, decision makers will know exactly where their money is going and will feel more assured about making a large purchase from your company.

Moreover, because marine trade shows are excellent places for networking within the industry, these engaging spaces offer opportunities for more enriched interactions with potential customers, partners, and vendors, as they give your booth staff a more prolonged chance to form lasting relationships and bonds that stand the test of time.

Craft Relevant Giveaways

Giving away promotional materials, prizes, and branded swag is a surefire way to maximize your trade show presence and help convention-goers remember your brand’s ethos and mission long after the expo wraps up. While a lot of convention freebies can be fun and enjoyable in the moment, businesses in the maritime industry should consider utility and longevity when planning their giveaways. Long sales cycles are common in this field, so freebies that are usable beyond the trade show can keep you front of mind.

Focus on giveaways that are specific to the maritime industry, with an emphasis on items that will be especially relevant to your customers. Whether they travel, work, and live in international waters, spend most of their time in shipyards, or work in an office, you want to keep your brand top of mind in the months and even years following the show. The following are just a few examples of giveaways and prizes geared toward impressing the crowds at all of your marine trade shows:

  • Reusable thermoses and water bottles will help your customers stay hydrated as they work long days, whether they’re on a boat or behind a desk.
  • Branded sunglasses and sunscreen are exceptionally useful given the presence of intense outdoor elements in commercial shipping. These will remind customers of your business every time they put them on. 
  • Waterproof totes and drybags will help keep your logo visible above and below deck.
  • Other embroidered gear such as hats, towels, and t-shirts will all be of frequent use to your potential customers as they navigate the high seas.

Engage Potential Customers with Video

Video is an increasingly effective way to educate users about your products and services, making it a key component to consider for your trade show booth at the International WorkBoat Show and elsewhere.

In a recent report, 94% of people indicated that they watch explainer videos to get more information about a product. 84% said that an explainer video influenced their purchasing decision. Video is also a valuable avenue for explaining services, which can’t be physically displayed in the same way as products.

Video can also assist the workers staffing your booth. It gives people more engaging material to keep them interested and actively learning about your offerings while workers finish talking to other attendees.

It also allows attendees to gain more familiarity with your products or services in a low-stakes situation. If they do talk to your staff, the questions they ask will be more specific to their needs and concerns, since much of the basic information will be provided by the video.

To learn more, check out our blog post about the benefits of using video in a trade show booth design.

Additional Marine Industry Trade Shows to Attend

As the New Orleans WorkBoat Show approaches, there are plenty of other relevant marine industry trade shows to help you maximize your engagement with your target audiences beyond this single expo. Consider building your brand’s presence at any of the following events:

  • Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) is known as the world’s premier in-water boat show. Last year, it boasted over 100,000 attendees, 1,000 exhibitors, more than 1,300 boats, and an economic impact of $1.79 billion, including $709.7 million in sales for Florida companies. There’s no better place to get in front of high-powered boat builders, designers, brokers, and enthusiasts.
  • Inland Marine Expo (IMX) is one of the leading events for the inland and intercoastal commercial marine transportation industry. Attendees include barge and towboat owners and operators, shallow draft ports and terminals, stevedoring firms, service providers, shipyards, repair facilities, engineers, surveyors, consultants, contractors, and more. Make valuable connections and sales at this targeted annual event.
  • Pacific Marine Expo occurs annually in Seattle, WA, bringing together commercial mariners from all over the Pacific Northwest for three full days of networking, business opportunities, and educational enrichment. This event caters to thousands of attendees and exhibitors interested in cutting-edge marine electronics and machinery, boatbuilding, engineering, commercial fishing, and more.
  • IBEX 365 is geared towards showcasing and integrating the latest and greatest in innovative marine technology. By attending or exhibiting at this event, your business can thrive in a more localized market with an emphasis on specialized boat design and technical boat-building. The next IBEX event takes place October 1–3 at the Tampa Convention Center. 
  • Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) welcomes over 30,000 attendees to Houston, TX, from May 6–9, inviting them to connect over empowering offshore technologies that are shaping the landscape of commercial maritime trade. The OTC connects shipping businesses in America to a more global market, much like the New Orleans International WorkBoat Show 2024.

Need Help Before the International WorkBoat Show? Contact Cardinal Expo

A model boat in a display case to draw attention at our customer's International WorkBoat Show booth

With decades of experience across the U.S., Cardinal Expo can confidently handle your trade show needs. We take pride in our high-level, end-to-end services and customer satisfaction, giving you the flexibility and results you need to succeed.

From planning to execution, our talented team is equipped with industry knowledge and innovative problem-solving skills to assist you every step of the way. With display design, branding, fabrication, logistics, and production management, we can handle every aspect of your planning prior to the event. We also provide installation, dismantling, inventory, and onsite supervision to ensure that everything runs smoothly the day of the show.

Contact us below to talk about how we can help with your next trade show.

Contact Us Today

We at Cardinal Expo are here to answer any questions you may have, provide you with additional information, and create an effective solution for your exhibit needs.

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