Special contribution by Dana Freker Doody, VP of Corporate Communications.
My sister-in-law excels at baking. She also excels at cooking, knitting, raising babies, learning new languages, writing poetry, and analyzing Russian literature. No joke. But this story is about her baking. Apple pie, to be specific.
I love her apple pie, so on a recent journey half way across the country to visit with family, we decided to head into the Oregon Hood River Valley to pick apples. What a great family day.
We packed the children in our rented minivan with toys and books and drinks stowed in each of our personally assigned cup holders, seeing as how there are at least 15 cup holders per one minivan. We packed sweaters and scarves and sunglasses, prepared for an hour’s drive into the farmland. We packed a cooler full of lunch, which we enjoyed on picnic tables at the relaxing lavender farm, just across the dirt road from the apple farm.
Ah, the apple farm, where you can bring your own labor but still get overcharged for materials handled on your way out. Children running between trees, pulling wagons, climbing on shoulders. Bushels filling rapidly with Cameos and Fujis and Braeburns. It was a picturesque setting for chatting and discovering.
Then the ride home, making wrong turns, placating cranky kindergartners, squeezing in one more stop at the waterfall. It was a journey to remember, an activity-filled day.
And then it was over. We went home.
I thought of other journeys, every trip taken to a conference or a trade show. They are all hustle-bustle and then, done.
What matters then, is what sticks with us, what we remember. Crafting the journey such that memories and lessons stay with your attendees, such that they are able to go home feeling impacted and able to act upon what they have experienced, that is advanced-level planning. Designing the Attendee Journey focused on what will happen afterward directly addresses the No. 1 concern of trade show and event organizers: Increasing Attendance/Improving Attendee Experiences.
Deliberate interaction points prevent attendees from getting lost in the apple orchard of your exhibit hall. Creating community connectedness turns a dark forest into a bright gold mine. Attendees don’t set out on journeys to your meeting or trade show just because; they come so they can achieve specific things, be it career advancement, advice from their network of peers, information to make an important purchase.
Stay focused on the end goals of your organization, your exhibitors and sponsors, and your attendees. Because the minivan road trip and the lavender farm lunch and the actual picking of the apples was surely delightful. But in the end, it was really all about the apple pie.