Event organizers have a million things to juggle, but it all comes down to one goal. That goal? Creating a successful event.
Of course, the exhibit hall is a major financial contributor to that success. So, why treat the exhibit hall like an afterthought, with tired rows of first-come-first-serve booths?
In a competitive landscape, exhibitors want to get real value out of their exhibit.
It’s no longer enough for them to gain “visibility” at an event. They want tangible, trackable results that demonstrate the worth of their investment. To boost traffic and provide exhibitors with solid ROI, organizers need to move beyond the traditional setup. They need to look at what exhibitors and attendees really want.
Out with the old
Which of these two scenarios sounds more appealing?
- Entering an exhibit hall and having to face an onslaught of sales reps who are either over-aggressive or bored and simultaneously unengaged.
- Browsing from booth to booth, learning about new initiatives, compelling innovations, and relevant tools and services.
It’s no surprise that most attendees would prefer the latter. Exhibitors are also frequently uninterested in the standard expo hall setup.
Too many exhibitors have spent too many weekends standing in a show booth. They flash desperate smiles and promotional pens at passing attendees, while calculating how many minutes remain until they can pack up and go home.
Organizers have the power to change this unappealing cycle. They can create a dynamic, interesting, attractive exhibit hall. It just takes a little creativity.
In with the new
It’s time to transform the exhibit hall into a destination — an inviting scene that keeps exhibitors and attendees coming back every year. To accomplish this goal, an important shift in thinking must take place:
View exhibitors as educators and leaders, not salespeople.
This shift can transform the entire exhibitor-organizer-attendee relationship. It can give a major boost to an event’s success.
Organizers can carefully cultivate a new kind of exhibit hall. One where attendees learn about amazing new developments and brush up on industry innovation. Exhibitors demonstrate innovation and leadership, showing how their solutions can solve attendees’ problems.
Other possibilities open up as well. With the right setup, exhibitors can get beyond the booth in these creative ways:
- Hosting educational mini-sessions
- Organizing networking events
- Sponsoring gathering areas
These ideas can provide excellent opportunities for unforced, natural engagement and strong community-building.
What organizers can do
Thinking about the exhibit hall in a new way may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are concrete steps show organizers can take to transform their exhibit hall into an engaging, educational, and attractive destination:
- Design the exhibit hall thoughtfully to encourage conversation and engagement. Insert gathering spaces and lounges among the booths, but do so with purpose. No sad folding chairs and card tables tossed carelessly into an unused booth. Think beyond traditional in-line exhibit rows and focus instead on allowing people to gather. Offer spaces in quiet areas for one-on-one meetings or deep discussions.
- Educate exhibitors and cultivate them carefully. Ensure that booth offerings provide relevance and value to attendees. Help them focus on return on objectives, especially if they are looking to build brand awareness instead of sales.
- Work with exhibitors to explore opportunities outside the box (or booth). Philanthropic initiatives, community-building, and mini-presentations are all great ways for exhibitors to stand out and get involved outside their expo presence.
- Know the audience (another reason why data gathering is so important). Help exhibitors know and understand the audience as well, so they can customize their exhibit and messaging for maximum relevancy.
- Don’t make the exhibitors compete with the event. Schedule big-name keynote speakers outside of exhibit hours. Have some smaller speakers/sessions on the show floor to attract greater footfall. Offer refreshments/food/gathering spaces in the hall. Attendees will congregate there anytime they have time to kill.
- Offer digital solutions, like RFID technology, to help track audience data. This helps prove ROI for exhibitors, making it easier for them to justify their event spend.
- Offer hosted buyer appointments, so exhibitors and attendees can use their time efficiently.
To gain maximum value from the exhibition hall and keep a show dynamic, popular, and profitable, organizers should think beyond the traditional lines of reps in booths.
Instead, encourage exhibitors to focus on providing attendees with a positive and relevant educational experience. Design the hall with creativity and thoughtfulness. With that approach, show organizers can not only boost exhibit hall traffic — but the success of the entire show.
Want more? Download our latest guide: The Trade Show Audience: Deeper Insights, Better Engagement.