Steve Wildmann is president of Rental and Staging Network (RSN) and president and owner of Advanced Staging Productions in Pennsylvania. With more than 30 years of experience in the event technology business, he leads RSN, a top-tier network of audiovisual production companies throughout North America.
4 Ways to Use AV to Build a Memorable Trade Show Experience
One of the best tools trade show planners have in their toolbox is a strong relationship with their audio-visual provider.
AV brings a trade show to life with dynamic lighting, sound and interactive experiences that engage and excite attendees, letting them know they are somewhere special.
Everyone Wants a Moment to Shine
No matter the makeup of an audience, you need to keep in mind that it’s full of real people, not just the labels of attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. People tend to have similar interests and desires, which include being seen.
“In my experience, people generally want the same things from an event,” says Joe Kinney, creative design at RSN member CMI AV. “They appreciate engaging information. They want to see themselves and their friends in the photos on a screen.”
AV delivers information to the group by sharing it in strategic locations. It can also deliver photos of attendees through a live feed from social media or through a video or slide show each day, which is a fun way to keep the group captivated and excited.
“When you bring attendees on stage—literally or virtually—it really gets everyone engaged,” adds Kinney. Otherwise, they are likely to be in their own private worlds, on their phones.
Embrace the Flexibility of LED
LED walls are the video screens of today. They are modular, made up of individual displays that connect to form a single large screen. Highly customizable and offering flexible design options, LED walls have many benefits compared to traditional projectors.
“You can build LED walls into any size or shape you want—circles, squares, curved walls, or arches—any kind of wall is possible,” said Johnny Jan, director of creative services and marketing at RSN member, CPR Multimedia Solutions. “[By] incorporating LED panels, panel frames, lightboxes and printed fabric, you can create an exciting, visually impressive stage…to further maintain and sustain the attendees’ interest and engagement.”
This flexibility makes them easy to fit into booths to draw attention. While video is a great way to stand out, having a different shape or a creative use is even more eye-catching in the sea of a trade showfloor.
In addition to the numerous shapes and sizes LED walls can take, they have brighter and crisper images while occupying less space in the venue than projector/screen systems do, which makes them great for the showfloor. By their nature, projectors have a large footprint and require unimpeded space to anything passing in front of the projector, which takes up precious square footage that could be used by exhibitors, sponsors or attendees.
Anything happening at the event can be transmitted on the screens, according to Chip Lacure, business development at CMI AV.
“We’ve seen clients doing hide-and-seek competitions, scavenger hunts, giving prizes and awards—any kind of recognition—that can all be parlayed onto the screen and make interactive content during the event,” he says.
Don’t Rely Exclusively on Smartphones for Audience Response
Even though smartphones are taking over the world— Pew Research found 77 percent of American adults have one—that doesn’t mean you should rely on them exclusively for audience engagement. They can be a source of frustration on the showfloor or cost precious time in a breakout session, as they distract the audience.
“Using a phone as an audience response tool brings baggage that will alienate some people,” says Kinney. “Not everyone can or wants to use their phone. With keypads, everyone has the same technology. Plus, if the audience didn’t download the app in advance and then suddenly, 500 people need to get [it], it taxes the wi-fi and takes 10 minutes away from the event while everyone tries to download and figure out the app.”
An audience response system (ARS) is a fun way to make an event interactive. Available as keypad devices, mobile apps and texting numbers, they let the audience get involved. For example, “Ask the Audience” on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? uses keypads.
Connect with the History of the Trade Show
Just because something is old or low-tech doesn’t mean it’s outdated. Ultimately, the goal of AV is to deliver an engaging event and capture an audience’s attention.
“We have an event that has a flag presentation,” says Lacure. “It’s done with bagpipes, and that’s a 100-year-old tradition. AV is no different than that to get people engaged.”
Splicing old and new together—like bagpipes in a contemporary event—can reach across all demographics in an audience.
AV done right can bring everyone together and keep their attention while nodding to the history of the show that connects all attendees’ past and present.