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Building Buzz on the Expo Floor

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Ken Holsinger

Ken Holsinger

Vice President, Digital Solutions

Best practices for generating expo excitement

It’s no surprise connection has become a universal buzzword in today’s digital marketplace. The same goes for our industry as we strive to create connections online and offline with colleagues, audiences, exhibitors, and sponsors. No matter the size of the conference, designing opportunities that offer connections help attendees enjoy an experience that’s memorable and meaningful.

And in a perfect event world, you build compelling connections between the show floor, education offerings, and the general session. Linking these areas benefits all stakeholders — exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees. Since these groups often have different agendas, finding the right balance is essential. Attendees seek education and networking, but they also want to experience what’s new at the expo. Exhibitors crave a bustling exhibit hall and sponsors need exposure to audiences.

For all groups, delivering an experience is key to the overall success. In fact, more than two-thirds of marketers agree that brand experience is an effective way to reach their organization’s goals. So what are some best practices to ensure a seamless, connected experience that keeps audiences talking, interacting, and sharing? Here are a few examples where show organizers found interesting ways to create connections from the general session to the show floor and beyond.

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Inspiration

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Teaching moments

People attend conferences to expand their knowledge, so orchestrate learning opportunities outside the typical meeting room session. The show floor is prime real estate for alternative education routes, especially when planned through exhibitor and sponsor collaboration. At the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Scientific Congress and Expo, the association partnered with an exhibitor whose product launch provided the perfect learning opportunity.

Together the groups created the “Simulation Pavilion,” a sponsored learning focal point, where attendees could try out various medical procedures in a controlled environment. Providing a hands-on experience allowed attendees to expand their skills and learn about a new product. At the same time, the activity created positive exposure for the exhibitor who sponsored the pavilion.

Take another learning cue from IAEE. During Expo! Expo! in Anaheim, the association held “Campfire” education sessions on the show floor in a lounge-like space adjacent to other exhibitors. Speakers presented ideas in a casual roundtable format that encouraged collaborative learning in 15-minute bursts and allowed passersby to easily join the exchange. 

Group effort

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. So design opportunities that play to the crowd — get attendees involved with fun, group-effort activities. At the American Society for Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, the association created a larger-than-life Writing Wall that asked attendees to contribute personal stories as well as their commitment to the association. The attraction brought in crowds of eager storytellers who surrounded the wall and networked in ASH Central, the organization’s central meeting place on the show floor.

Encouraging audience participation and collaborative effort also can be sparked at the general session and then continued in the exhibit hall. By teasing an idea in the opening forum, you’ll often create a “can’t miss” opportunity. Artist Phil Hanson delivered an inspiring keynote during the Expo! Expo! event about how challenges can cloud our ability to see bigger picture opportunities. He drove home his point by initiating an abstract painting on stage. He encouraged attendees to locate the work on the expo floor and add to it with their own expression. After attendees added individual artistic contributions throughout the show, Hanson unveiled the collective work of art: a beautiful mosaic featuring the face of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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To be continued...

We’ve all attended sessions that wrapped up just as the interaction took off, leaving us hungry for more. So how can you satisfy the craving to continue? Create continuity with the content. It allows the show to go on…on the show floor. Like IAEE keynote speaker Phil Hanson created a call-to-action with a group art project, the American Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA) designed an interactive panel during the general session that had a built-in sequel in the exhibit hall.

For the ASLA annual meeting’s opening session, organizers developed a networking trivia panel to address a hot button topic: diversity. To organize the discussion and address the subject head-on, organizers used second screen technology to conduct live polling as attendees arrived and again during the discussion. The second screen capabilities provided real-time stats and incorporated more than 700 live questions submitted by attendees.

At the end of the general session, however, the enthusiastic crowds weren’t ready to end the discussion. So ASLA kept attendees engaged by creating a “Continue the Conversation” lounge in a previously dead zone of the show floor. This suddenly packed area provided a buzzy locale where attendees resumed the interactive panel discussion. Relocating the panel also contributed bonus crowds to nearby exhibitors. The ASLA team was able to take the 700 questions and narrow them down to 50 concise and informative questions that were addressed to the panel on the show floor. This activation worked so well that ASLA plans to replicate a sponsored “Continue the Conversation” space during the next annual event.

Creating brand experience connections throughout the show and at the expo helps stakeholders meet objectives and captivates attendees from beginning to end. Continuity delivers a more memorable experience that increases learning, engagement, and overall conference satisfaction. Together that builds a loyal and connected following.

Learn about the value of brand experience and how this strategy builds connections on and off the show floor.

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