Want to Have a Successful Booth? Create a Memorable Attendee Experience!

August 11, 2015

Walking the packed showfloor for the American Society of Association Executives’ Annual Meeting, held this week at Detroit’s Cobo Center, it was abundantly clear that the busiest booths, by far, were ones that created a really fun, engaging attendee experience.

Some booths went for the straight up business approach with salespeople standing at the ready to talk with customers about the company’s latest offerings, other booths had the traditional promotional items – stuffed animals, pens, water bottles, etc. – and others stepped it up a notch.

At the Visit Milwaukee booth, they decided to show off one of the local delicacies in their city – over-the-top Blood Mary drinks.

People lined up for not only the actual drink, but the garnish that included choices of sausage, cheese, pickles, olives and more. The drink (and food) was complemented by a colorful graphic display.

“We worked for months with an ad agency to develop something for the show and then we scrapped the whole concept 2-3 weeks ago,” said Megan Gaus, senior director of marketing and communications for Visit Milwaukee.

She added they decided to bring everything in-house and came up with the idea they took to the show. “Milwaukee is known for beer and cheese, but we have a pretty rich Bloody Mary scene, so we thought that might get some good booth traffic,” Gaus said.

And, their last-minute gamble paid off, in more ways than one. They poured 700 Bloody Marys, which translated to 700 leads, and, even better, the entire concept only cost a few thousand dollars.

“I’m really blessed to have a really talented team,” Gaus said. ASAE agreed, naming the booth second place in its “Best-in-show in-line booth contest.”

Another booth that created a lot of fun engagement was a2z, Inc.’s, where they showed off their ChirpE Photo Booth product.

Attendees stood in front of a green screen and were able to pick from a number of backgrounds and props, such as being in a rock band or in a cartoon.

“The ChirpE Photo Booth is making a huge impact on social media,” said Beth Hays Kepnes, director national sales. “It gets a lot of attention and drives value for the booth. The number of impressions exponentially increases, and people are just having so much fun!”

Some other booths that made an impact on the showfloor included the Geico booth that had a dizzying amount of activities going on at the same time. There was a claw machine in which people could try and win a small gecko or bigger stuffed animals. They had a 3-D printer making, of course, little green geckos they were giving away. And, if you filled out a short form on an iPad a wheel would automatically spin and you could pick from several different prizes.

During all of this prize giving, a life-size gecko walked around high-fiving everyone and music blared from speakers all over the booth. Yes, they were very, very busy.

Over in the Korea Tourism booth, they took a more subtle approach. People could dress up in ornate, silk robes and have their picture taken in front of a beautiful backdrop, or have their name hand-stamped in Korean letters on a colorful fan.

In the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau booth, they took the idea of loving their city to another level with signage proclaiming #LousivilleLove, tons of giveaways, such as an ice cube tray made specifically for bourbon, and salespeople dressed to the nines.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission was back again with its extremely popular ‘Build-a-Bear’ exhibit at which attendees stood in long lines for a special stuffed animal to take back home.  

In all, there were a lot of booths that brought out their ‘A’ game at the ASAE annual meeting, and, as a result, the showfloor consistently was buzzing with energy from the minute the doors opened until they closed both exhibit hall days.

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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.