Breaking Out of the Trade Show Cookie Cutter

March 29, 2017

By Elizabeth Johnson

Aisles of pipe and drape; panels, roundtables, keynotes; networking mixers and the standard preshow marketing of emails, postcards and social media updates – safe to say, there is a tradeshow model. However, this model can make it hard for an attendee to differentiate one show from another.

What can tradeshows do to stand out, change the attendee experience and see different results in terms of attendance numbers and exhibitor sales and leads? Personalize it.

“Event attendees look for an experience that is tailored to helping them achieve their goals: making the right connections, selecting the right sessions and being guided to the activities that will be most in line with their interests,” said Tim Schmanski, chief architect at Certain.

He continued, “Meanwhile, sales and marketing can use this opportunity to build stronger relationships with customers and drive revenue growth.”

There are many ways trades show organizers can personalize their attendee experiences, from pre-event marketing to on-site experience. Doing so will not only raise awareness and interest but also improve net promoter scores, up exhibitor ROI and ultimately raise attendance and revenue.

Here are some expert tips for personalizing attendee event experiences:

 Let Attendees Help Build Out-of-the-Box Experiences

UTOPiAcon, an annual writing con and book signing event in Nashville, connects with attendees directly, allowing them to shape aspects of the event.

Attendees can vote on the theme, annual award winners and poster designs, and the event includes networking opportunities that attendees find fun, creative and perfect for self-expression.

“We have a Lip Sync Showdown where attendees form groups and compete on stage during the UTOPiA Awards, and the winners are selected by audience applause,” said Janet Wallace, founder UTOPIAcon.

She added, “We also host a Karaoke night. Each year, the crowd has grown for that.”

This event also breaks up and personalizes its program content with a tactic not often seen in the show world.

“We host an Open Floor Keynote on the last day of the event (in which) we post two mics in the aisles of the audience and let attendees share what kind of impact the event has had on them,” Wallace said.

Use Data for Future Marketing and Enhancing the Buyer Journey

Organizers are able to use data generated at their events to create personalized touch points for future events, as attendee data gathered at previous events can be invaluable in understanding what each attendee may be interested in for future events.

Additionally, when marketers capture event-based buying signals from event attendees in real-time, they can determine customer purchase intent and then leverage that data in the moment, when conversion is most likely.

Follow-up actions can then be triggered to help to personalize event experiences and map them to the customer buying journey.

“Send an invitation for a product demo appointment at the show once an attendee attends two sessions related to that offering,” Schmanski suggested.

By using data-driven insight into attendee interests through event automation technology, Certain’s client, CA Technologies’ CA World, has personalized its event experience.

“By using real-time event data, CA used relevant customer or prospect moments during the event to trigger scoring and follow-up activities that optimize cross-sell and upsell opportunities; moved attendees through the buyer journey in a personal and effective way, and proactively lead attendees through various offerings that ultimately guided (them) more quickly to the right buying decision,” Schmanski said.

He continued, “CA World increased attendance by 42 percent, personalized its major conference and delivered credible ROI.”

Use Technology to Optimize Attendee ROI

Today’s technology allows organizers to personalize events to optimize attendee ROI.

“We use turn-key apps that manage registration, help attendees network prior to arriving, optimize breakout sessions, geofence off-site after-hours opportunities and create a platform for continued engagement after the meeting ends,” explained Karen Shackman, president of Shackman Associates New York.

She added, “Planners and attendees can conduct private chats, connect via LinkedIn and view profiles of attendees they might not know before the meeting.”

Secondly, by using interactive private technology during educational sessions, attendees can ask unlimited questions and moderators can quickly filter out ones that don't make sense or disrupt session flow.

Furthermore, because speakers can clearly see the questions being asked, they don’t get lost among the noise of status updates on traditional social media.

“The key is to provide moderators with more control than ever over questions, answers and even who gets asked the questions,” Shackman said.

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