Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dreaming up a Trade Show

Not only a trade show event, later pockets of hosted games,
food stations, dancing, and themed lounges allowed for connecting.
The more I attend trade shows, the more I long for these to become more human experiences, more immersive, more fun (yes, FUN) and to allow for deeper conversations that lead to mutually beneficial relationships to be developed and to flourish. 

How can we make this happen?  While I don't have all the answers by any stretch, I do have some ideas - some random, some gleaned from readings and some that have been fire-started in conversations such as those found on the weekly #expochat.

If you have ideas to share - please do!

  1. Beacons, beacons everywhere. In our Event Alley Show last week we had to talk about the impact of these devices that allow us to track how people move through trade shows, and allow messages to be delivered to participants based on their interests ie. close to a session, person or exhibitor they are interested in.  Used with forethought, these have great potential to lead to meaningful and timely connections. 
  2. Pop-up education. Navigating a multi-faceted schedule of appointments, meetings and sessions can be a daunting task, and yet we are also seeking knowledge enhancing opportunities at shows. What if these sessions just popped up - a few pre-set areas around the floor space, an app based message sent to participants, hostesses with overhead lollypop signs announcing the session and (adopting open space thinking) whoever comes - these are the right people to be there.  Make these full of bite-size, consumable information and facilitate these to foster conversation - allow the participants to own this space and time.
  3. Why not a pop-up re-energizing dance break? 
  4. Live interviews on the show floor, taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge we know is on the floor as industry professionals (in any sector) join the swarm.  Capture the ideas and the energy and live stream these interviews to a virtual audience. Engage this virtual audience as well - share their ideas, and share what they could participate in live should they attend next year.
  5. Forego traditional aisles and consider hub-and-spoke or alternate designs, including spaces for introverts to pause, relax and reflect; lounges where at the very least water can easily be found; add key association mentors throughout to introduce people who may share common interests but aren't that comfortable introducing themselves to new people - for all but the deepest extrovert this can get tiring. 
  6. Consider the role of the sponsor - and create relevant opportunities for the sponsoring organization which allow them to rise above the clutter, and are adding value for the attendees.  I know this seems basic, but it is not always what happens.  Traci Browne has many great ideas on her blog and I encourage you to read these thoughtful ideas. 
  7. User-friendly apps. We use apps to track our fitness, food, schedule, finances, find directions to nearly everywhere, pay for parking and so much more, order transportation and yes, even plan our meetings for the most forward thinking organizations, and yet only some shows have great apps.  What to me is great? It has to be easy to navigate, include current floor plans, lists of who is there with at least basic contact information and in app messaging option, schedules of education and networking programming, social media integration (how I like to share my experience),  a place to store show information vs. collecting any paper / make notes, and an element of gamification to add to the experience and to drive traffic flow to all areas of the show.  Access to information that is easy to navigate should allow a deeper personalization of the experience for the participant.  Ideally this also allows for data to be collected which allows for improvements to the show the next year.
  8. I want to discover hidden treasures on the floor - that perfect "je ne sais quoi" item you know your client can't live without; a supplier who not only has the service you require, but actually understands how to make my life easier - I don't want to watch one needless demo after another - I want my problem to be solved.  (hey, I said I was dreaming up my ideal trade show!)
  9. wi-fi. that is all.

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