Niche EventFest: A Case Study in Creating a Fun, Memorable Experience

November 29, 2015

If you’re wondering how to make your event more fun, engaging, memorable and valuable to all of the stakeholders involved, look no further for a great example than Niche Media’s Niche EventFest.

Niche EventFest, held Nov. 16-18 in New Orleans, took the typical event experience and infused it with unique experiences throughout, from an icebreaker that really worked at its opening party to a police escorted second line parade to another party and a “Shark Tank”-style event pitch on the final day.

The education, too, was right on the money, with sessions that ranged from perfecting negotiation skills to learning all of the ins and outs of launching a new event.

From the moment the event kicked off, the attendees, many of whom were there for the first time and were made up of niche media companies and sponsors, were a part of something that definitely was not designed by accident, but, instead, to take the ‘usual’ event ecosphere to another level.

Carl Landau, also known as ‘Grand Poobah’ and owner/producer of Niche EventFest, explains what the ‘fun factor’ is all about: “We know there is a strong link between better learning in a fun environment. We want our events - and what attendees learn at them, to be memorable.”

Here are a few steps Landau and his team took to ensure a ‘fun’ time at the event:

1.     First, we provide many fun, relaxed networking opportunities throughout the conference, such as roundtable sessions (vs only listening to speakers), so our attendees can make really meaningful connections. 

2.     We also have a "Wow Factor" at our events, such as a Second-line Parade in New Orleans.

3.     Our Niche Orientation Party had a fun, interactive name tag challenge to get people engaged.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to inspire event organizers, which explains why we have such a high percentage of new attendees each year,” Landau added.

Besides all of the networking fun, the content for the sessions is carefully thought out as well.

“We want to expose Event Organizers to as many "event ideas" as possible that can translate to ideas they can use at their own event,” Landau said.

He added, “We bring in dynamic speakers who engage and inspire our attendees with a strong focus on new event ideas and ways to improve and increase revenue generation.”

The opening keynote was given by Sean Guerre, principal at Stone Fort Group, who talked about “Wide World of Events: New, Cool & Profitable Event Models That Really Work”.

The Lunch Keynote was given by Greg Topalian, president of LeftField Media, who talked about bringing a consumer element to the more than 100-year-old toy trade show held annually in New York City and why other shows should consider doing the same.

Landau also said part of the strategy of the content provided at Niche Event Fest is to give attendees practical takeaways they can implement immediately.

“For example, this year we introduced our Niche Lightning Round: A series of 6-minute presentations by industry leaders who shared an innovation, lessons learned or an "outside the box" idea,” he added.

Along with the fun networking and innovative and informative content, it was also refreshing to see how sponsors were integrated seamlessly and in unique ways into the entire event.

There were a lot of destination sponsors and at the end of the education sessions the first day there was something called the “Site Selection Happy Hour”.

Attendees were challenged to go around to each destination’s table and collect a ‘stamp’ and everyone who filled their sheet was eligible for a drawing that included a free registration for next year’s event.

The room was packed with people not only checking out the sponsors, but also having cocktails and there was a table filled with every kind of bacon imaginable.

Next year’s Niche EventFest will be held Nov. 14-16 in Nashville, Tenn. 

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.