Is Your Show Providing Attendees an Experience They Can't Get Anywhere Else?

May 12, 2013

Traci Browne

Owner, Red Cedar Marketing, auhor of "The Social Trade Show: Leveraging Social Media and Virtual Events"

Trade show attendees have more and more options available to them every day. New, competing events are popping up everywhere vying for their attention. Education, networking opportunities and vendor research is now available for free online.

Trade Shows have a unique opportunity provide enhanced education, networking and exposure to industry suppliers that attendees can’t get elsewhere.

That enhancement was the topic of discussion on May 8 during the weekly gathering of show organizers, exhibitors and suppliers in the Twitter chat #ExpoChat.

Chat participants first talked about what type of information attendees needed to have when making decisions about what events they might attend. Information that would demonstrate the potential for a return on attendee investment of time and money.

Aside from the usual information show organizers make available, like exhibitor lists, session descriptions and schedules and speaker information, the group dug deeper.

Several in the group expressed a desire to have more information on who would be attending the event than is currently provided. Not just names and titles, but a complete profile so registrants who were on the fence would know the type of people with whom they would be networking.

One participant commented that she needs the type of information that will allow her to calculate her personal ROI. That being will she walk away with content for which she'll get paid?

Another participant suggested case studies or testimonials be included in the show marketing. She explained, “This system analyst attended this event and learned how to solve X and met with four vendors to…”

The next topic of discussion was education. We know that education is important to our attendees but how does a show organizer provide the type of educational experience that attendees cannot find anywhere else?

The #ExpoChat participants were pretty much unanimous in their opinion that education needed to be an interactive learning experience. They felt that attendees wanted more time to interact with the speakers and also with their peers. Suggestions were to provide more Q&A time during sessions, roundtable discussions with speakers, peer reviews, learning lounges and hands-on sessions.

One participant said she felt that getting people together who are not usually together and let them debate would be something attendees could not easily get elsewhere.

Another idea the group was enthusiastic about came from someone who suggested giving attendees the opportunity do some hands-on project work with their peers.

Next on the agenda were ways to help attendees find new products and services more effectively. How do we go beyond offering a new product pavilion or highlighting those exhibitors in the show directory?

This struck up a flurry of discussion around mobile apps and how they needed to be “smarter”. Attendees should be able to search the mobile app for new products and specific types of technology. The app should then offer other suggested vendors with similar offerings and even vendors who offer products that work hand-in-hand with those offerings.

Implementing a juried new product pavilion would add credibility by ensuring that only truly innovative products were being included.

That sparked an idea in my head. What if you turned the entire new technology pavilion idea on its head? What if you created an area where attendees could bring their wish lists of products or services they wished existed, but don’t? That would be attractive to exhibitors for market research and product development reasons.

Finally, the group discussed resources show organizers could deliver that would help their attendees do a better job of measuring their ROI in the show. It’s no longer enough to deliver an experience and then leave it up to the attendees to determine its worth. Show organizers have to be proactive when working with their attendees to make sure the attendee has the experience they want.

Asking each attendee during the registration process three goals they wish to accomplish while at the show would be a great place to start. Then give them the tools and resources to make sure they are accomplishing those goals.

One participant suggested a type of CRM system that allows the organizer to check back in with attendees post-show to see what they learned and how the organization could help them further.

Gartner does a great job providing their attendees the resources they need to measure the value of their participation in an event.

Their event approval tools give attendees a cost/benefit analysis to present to their manager, ROI worksheets to use during the conference, and for post show, a customizable trip report and a conference summary report.

In conclusion, during the #ExpoChat we discovered show organizers must start offering their attendees a different and more hands on experience. Show organizers need to make a commitment to their attendees and help them measure the value of their attendance at your event. One size does not fit all and relationships need to be an area of focus.

Join #ExpoChat every Wednesday at 3 pm EST. Topics are listed every week HERE.

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