How Small Experiences Can Deliver Big Impact Within Your Trade Show

April 30, 2019

Small is the new big. When it comes to trade shows and conferences, purposefully smaller B2B events, delightful consumer-esque experiences and more curated thought leadership are all trending in a very big way.

For example, Glossy, a content-first B2B conference company for fashion, beauty, e-commerce has had great success producing (and monetizing) intimate dinners for 15-20 execs at a time in order to foster in-person connections. This might seem high-touch, but it provides a very high return for their A-tier attendees, sponsors and industry execs.

Large scale trade show organizers are also creating smaller “shows within shows” to create more impactful in-person connections, going well beyond placing ceiling signage above a booth area.

C2 Montreal, a large-scale innovation conference happening in May, focuses on facilitating smaller, meaningful interactions inside the big event. Its team does this by creating collaborative experiences, meaningful play and curated one-on-ones at scale. During the last edition of C2 in 2018, more than 1,800 one-on-one connections called Braindates were established, and close to 75,000 participants exchanged contacts.

Smaller standalone conferences are also in. One big benefit to these: Event organizers are able to rollout out smaller (i.e., 300-person max) B2B events more frequently, in more regions, and quickly adjust programming and content to fit rapidly changing marketplaces. The frequency is a revenue driver.

Design Your Event To Delight From the Start

All signs point to the fact that we’ve entered a new renaissance of retail and experiential design, and forward-thinking executives are now applying this to their B2B events.

An architectural concept gaining mainstream traction is scenography, which refers to the spatial design that comprises a performance, event or building structure. What that means for digitally native brands and all retailers — and now B2B events — is that we now urgently need to create impactful (and delightful) offline experiences to foster in-person connections for our attendees.

It behooves B2B event organizers today to think of design early on as part of the whole.

“We all experience our surroundings through space. Scenography enables us to immerse viewers into not only the look of a space or brand but the entire feeling it encompasses,” said Tommy Zung, principal of architecture/experiential design firm, Studio Zung and owner of retail storefront Shop Zung in New York.

There has been a steady evolution from solely providing event production to also providing elevated event design — and building your executive team accordingly.

More than ever, your attendees (and thus, your vendors) want more out of their trade show experiences. Why can’t B2B experiences delight us too? Consumer-facing events have been delivering on this for decades.

Slow Content: Less is Better

Related to “smaller is better,” slower is now better, too. Over the past five years, marketers increased their publishing by 800 percent only to see engagement decline by 89 percent, according to American Marketing Association. Less is now literally more.

This is a relatively new approach to purposefully creating less event-related content — but making what you do create more thoughtful and of much higher quality, while distributing it more widely.

Studies also show that content creators who spend longer on what they’re making see stronger results, according to Orbit Media. This holds true for on-site editorial programming and panels as well. As we all know, curated, well-programmed thought leadership talks are driving revenue and attendee traction.

But who can attend 100-plus talks during one trade show? The Coachella-ization of our event panels — great programming everywhere at the same time — has led to major B2B “FOMO,” or fear of missing out. Read more on this in my Slow Content Roadmap here.

In Closing: Smaller and Slower

What does this all mean for event leaders? Elegantly blend well-designed, delightful, smaller, in-person experiences with slow content — and we’re on our way to more engaging trade shows.

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