New Recipe for Attendee Experience Success

March 29, 2012

Errol Ahearn

Errol Ahearn, vice president of design at GES, is a creative leader and industry speaker on exhibit strategy, design and technology.

I’ve traveled the world looking for the best practices in exhibiting. Though at first the following steps to creating the best attendee experience may seem counterintuitive, they are in fact revolutionary.

Step 1- Prepare a “show-stopping” layout:

No one wants too many people in an exhibit. Do what you can to prevent attendees from entering your booth. Designing visible and physical obstacles is your goal. Start by blocking the perimeter of your exhibit with counters, walls or whatever you have left in your crates. Pay close attention to the corners of the exhibit space where most attendees will try to enter. The more barriers you build the fewer attendees you’ll have to worry about.

Step 2 - Mix in puzzling graphics:

The rule here is, “Do your best to not tell attendees who you are or what you do at a glance.” Keep them guessing. Use wordy text and muddled graphics to baffle even the savviest visitor. Keep logo identification to a minimum and do not make signage visible from all sides of your exhibit. Also, don’t rely on the company “graphic standards guide.” If these were to be taken seriously they would be called the “golden standards book” and not simply a “guide.”

Step 3 - Sprinkle on different staffing techniques:

The word “attendee engagement” is overrated when it comes to the attendee experience. In general, representatives should be hard to find. If things don’t go your way and an attendee does have a question, lead them around the exhibit from rep to rep until you run out of options and/or the attendee loses interest... Whatever comes first! Some attendees should simply be ignored. Other techniques you can try include “Talk to the hand” (playing on Smartphones behind the welcome counter), “Clump-o-reps” (that huddled mass in the middle of the exhibit) and my favorite, “Footloose” (when reps take off their shoes during breaks in the exhibit).

Step 4 - Finish with a hint of deconstructive traffic building:

We save the best for last. Try a traffic builder that brings them in and lets them down …  HARD! Teasing the attendee with a premium or give away and then making them fill out a seven page survey is a good start. More sophisticated methods include producing a traffic builder that has absolutely nothing to do with your company or product offerings. This leaves attendees bewildered as to why they’re in your exhibit in the first place and nearly guarantees they’ll never return.

April Fools! What you just read was a recipe on how to spoil the attendee experience, which is something NONE of us want to do. Next time you’re at a show make sure to read our recipe to spoil success and do the opposite!

Any memorable April Fools’ jokes you’d like to share with our fans? Share them on our Facebook wall and maybe someone will try one at home!

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