Attendee Engagement Reaches New Heights on EXHIBITORLive! 2016 Showfloor

March 8, 2016

Walking the aisles of the EXHIBITORLive! 2016 showfloor at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas last week can best be described as awe-inspiring, enlightening and engaging.

There are literally row after row of beautiful booths, with not only all the bells and whistles of the actual construction being shown off, but also some truly unique examples of experiential marketing to grab the attention of attendees walking by.

As the trade show for trade shows, EXHIBITORLive!’s showfloor and sessions are attended primarily by exhibit managers ranging from small companies with maybe a few shows a year to huge companies that exhibit at dozens of shows or more annually.

The entire focus of EXHIBITORLive in the 180 sessions and the showfloor is to give attendees the tools they need to take back to their offices and create a successful exhibit and marketing program.

Randal Acker, president of Exhibitor Media Group, which owns the show, said that successful attendee engagement in the booths at the show focused on “how do you create an experience that extrapolates demographic profiles to really develop a solution that meets their needs?”

He added that it was crucial to get the attendees integrated into the experience so they will be involved in the storytelling aspect of it.

“It’s not about the booths’ structure,” Acker said. “That whole build it and they will come mentality won’t work.”

Derse knew exactly who their primary audience was at the show – 20 to 30-year-old female exhibit managers. To engage with that demographic effectively, they built a wine bar and had wine tastings on the showfloor.

The wine bottles had case studies on the labels that challenged attendees to ‘aspire’ to create an effective exhibit program, according to Rick Stoner, Derse’s marketing director.

“We ask them ‘How do you aspire to a better way,” he added. “We try to bring it back to an exhibit strategy.”

Over in Group Delphi’s booth there were huge fabricated pieces of bamboo hung upside down with three pictures on each side that had QR codes embedded in them.

Once an attendee donned a pair of special augmented reality glasses, the pictures came to life with either butterflies that fluttered around, hummingbirds darting to different flowers or a panda bear that eat leaves and played.

“Philosophically, what we are about as a company is wanting to make a connection,” said Justin Hersh, the company’s CEO.

He added, “People go to live events for an experience. We want people to pause and say, ‘Wow, that was really something special’.”

Hersh said the overall reaction was “really positive” when people looked through the glasses and saw the moving images that they had created.

“You know you have the right experience when people have a childlike grin on their face,” he added.

At Czarnowski’s booth, the focus was on ‘unlearning and reframing’, according to Dillon Nagle, the company’s marketing director.

With that in mind, attendees had the opportunity to interact with “The Bumby’s”, who sat with headphones, scarves and sunglasses on and typed away on old word processors what their ‘instant appraisals’ were of attendees.

Nagle said the idea was to encourage people to not get stuck in the same way of thinking about their own exhibit strategies, but instead be open to a new way of perceiving them.  

In the Global Experience Specialists’ booth, attendees had the opportunity to have their entire perception challenged by entering a virtual reality world.

“Our in-house, multi-media team has created numerous virtual reality experiences for our clients. Oculus Rift is the tool we have used to help clients, so we saw it as an opportunity for attendees to experience the technology first-hand,” said Jeff Quade, GES’ CSO.

He added, “Attendees were able to visit a virtual environment and explore a two-story exhibit. As they moved through the exhibit, they could change out the furniture, the texture of the walls and even trigger digital content.”

The first floor was full of musical instruments including guitars, drums, synthesizers plus a jazz ensemble, a rock and roll trio and a hip hop area, and when the user moved close to the instruments, one of them would play.

Upstairs, there were conference rooms where you could change out a table, play a video or change the color and texture of the walls.

Throughout the physical booth, GES also highlighted award-winning brand activations shared through video case studies, highlight reels and news footage on 22 screens and a giant video wall.

“Attendees were fascinated by the many uses for this technology, and our team had terrific conversations with attendees about ways they can us virtual reality within their own exhibit program,” Quade said.

MG Design decided to take attendees back to their college freshmen move-in day at MG University (MGU).

The company built an elaborate two-story booth complete with a radio station that featured daily podcasts about exhibit trends and other topics, a coffeehouse, beer pong, table daily study sessions focusing on different topics such as exhibit design and ‘honored alumni’, who were MG Design clients on hand to talk about their partnership with the company.

“It’s fun to watch people come through the entrance with smiles on their faces,” said Ben Olson, vice president of marketing. “We are really trying to do a great experience and make it as engaging as possible.”

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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.