Board Game Fair Essen: tips for exhibitors

Spiel Essen: tips for exhibitors

You might already know about Spiel, the world’s biggest board game fair hosted in Messe Essen (Germany) each year. It’s a huge deal that attracted 190K visitors this year. But we have some insider info.

2018 was the third time we had a booth as exhibitors and we have some insights we want to share, things we learned along the way, often the hard way. We were there showing our games: Bilder, Deer Lord and Sound of Sirens.


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1. Booth identity

The obvious: your booth needs activity

In the case of Spiel, you’ll probably need some space to play games. If you want to sell your wares, you need to take care of that. Maybe you’ll have visitors over for a meeting, anticipate where and how you can host them.

The less obvious: how will you stand out?

With over a thousand exhibitors, you want something to differentiate yourself so find a twist and exploit it. Have a character or entertainment to lure people in. Host a competition, give out rewards, entice people to engage with your booth.

Or how about ‘getting something’ without ‘doing something’ altogether? Because who doesn’t like free stuff? I’ve seen people go crazy over candy, bags, and paper hats. This year, we handed out bananas and people went like some kinda fruit over them. You only got a banana if you played a game of ours though, but that promise of potassium really swayed a lot of people. Bananas!


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 2. Booth design

The obvious: make your booth look nice

You stop at a booth when something catches your eye, so curb appeal is everything.

Less obvious:

Nobody likes clutter, so make sure you have a place to stow away everything that doesn’t need to be seen. You’ll have inventory, supplies, coats, backpacks, all sorts, get some furniture or a screen to hide all that junk.

Print is not dead yet, and some support material goes a long way. Rules, price lists, flyers, business cards, we made 3D menu thingies with our 3 games. Find a way to make it all look cohesive (and avoid having to resort to marker on cardboard… unless that’s your look) Don’t overestimate the need for flyers though, plenty of visitors just take a photo.



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3. Get organized

The obvious: plan ahead

What will you need for your booth? How will all that stuff get there? How about you and your team?

Less obvious: plan waaaaay ahead

Arrange a place to sleep well beforehand, like six months before if you want some decent affordable options. Wait too long and you’ll have to sleep in your own moving van (which we can personally say is less than wunderbar)

Arrange meetings with industry players. Their calendars are filling up, so mail and pin a date and spot to meet weeks before the event. Don’t think of ‘just dropping in’ if you want to meet with anyone high up the corporate food chain, it just doesn’t happen.

You will no doubt think about how you will set up your booth, but don’t forget that it needs to be disassembled too! Think ahead how you will build, break down, wrap, and move everything – then think of it again in reverse.


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pictured above: a lot of stuff that goes from
house >> van >> fair >> van >> house

4. Teamwork

The obvious: assemble a team

Please don’t go to a fair this size without a good team. There’s too much to do, too much to handle, you need some people helping you out.

Less obvious: coach your team

Everyone needs to know what they’re doing when and how, preferably also ‘why’, so assign roles, brief your team, and co-ordinate efforts.



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5. Tips for Messe Essen in particular

You’re in Germany, expect plenty of German speaking visitors. Plenty of them speak fluent English, but it that doesn’t mean their friends do, and some will understandably pass on products in English. We offer print & plays in German (and some 12 other languages) and find it’s very much appreciated.

Internet! Either you buy access to the Messe wifi (very pricey) or you wonder how they managed without internet in the olden days, because the 4G network is maddeningly unreliable in Messe Essen.

Scout where the bathrooms are and make a mental note of how many stalls and how busy at which times. You’re welcome.

Also, stock up on €5 bills and €1 coins. You’ll thank us later.