Leading With Innovation

Unknowns riddle the landscape for trade show organizers and corporate event planners.  Sometimes the only constant is a static budget year after year.¹

Establishing a long-term plan that can keep up with innovative trends in the marketplace of attendees, not to mention the event planning marketplace can be challenging. Focusing efforts so that innovation is a leading factor at three different levels —  the Event level, Business level and Personal level — will ensure stakeholders “catch” the wave of innovation. This three-tiered approach perpetuates efforts further than singular activations can.

Build a brand that does the work for you.

Build up excitement for the innovation your event fosters. Attendees and exhibitors want to know what to expect² before they arrive, so tell them. Let them know what specific elements of the event they should look for in order to foster innovative thoughts, conversations and solutions. A popular adage, “build your network before you need it” supports marketing efforts, and for an event the adage can be “build the excitement before you leverage it” for onsite engagement and true impact.

Once attendees and exhibitors are onsite, focus on the innovation they bring. 

As we move to the business level, call out innovation in a public way. If you have a start-up pavilion, focus the conversation around that pavilion on the innovation found within. And if you have an industry award program, make sure innovation is part of the moment. The “moment” equates to the build up, the execution and the wrap up.  

Again, the idea is to use elements already in place to further the brand and atmosphere of innovation. 

Foster innovation by creating an environment where people discuss their latest ideas between themselves. Equip exhibitors so they can showcase their brand on the show floor. Face-to-face interaction with booth staff is still the most commonly used method of engagement attendees choose.² Highlight exhibitors and what they are doing to advance the nature of the work. They are busy folks³ and would welcome the boost.

Implement a plan to optimize foot traffic and create a schedule that will not leave attendees exhausted. 

Break down barriers and bring people together in a unique way.

Look for shared experiences that you can create, and capitalize on the shared emotion of those experiences. This is innovation at the Personal level.

Events are expected to require a more interactive approach over the next decade of evolution as we move into the Imagination Age. Events will likely have to advance in a way that maintains a balance between allowing individual interaction and shared experiences. If these interactive efforts are undertaken in a way that prevents barriers from being built, then the overall atmosphere of innovation will be strongest.


1 CEIR 2017 Cost to Attract Attendees provides data and trend analysis on exhibition marketing budgets.

2 CEIR 2018 Attendee ROI Playbook found that 90% of attendees plan their event experience before they leave home. See Part 3 for a breakdown of what planning is most important to them.

3 Invisible Exhibitor paper

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