Exhibitors and attendees received lots of attention at the TSNN Awards conference, part of the weekend of Celebrating Success and honoring Trade Show News Network and The Expo Group Show Manager of the Year award winners.
To start off the morning, CEO and President of Exhibit Surveys Skip Cox encouraged the award-winning show managers in the room to continue delivering value to all sides of the trade show ecosystem, and to remember “value is in the eye of the beholder.” Releasing data documenting potential return on investment for specific exhibitors helps their planning and can retain their business. It also manages expectations, to reinforce the value they are seeing.
“Show by their nature drive sales,” Cox says. “Don’t be afraid to share the data. You need to establish what is important to your exhibitors and be able to prove you have it with data.”
Exhibitors he talks to are very interested in being part of activities on the show floor and seek creative sponsorships and activations.
The lesson: Provide an environment conducive to effective customer engagement.
To that end, two talks on attendee engagement dug into how technology can enable personal attendee experiences and how plain old fashioned fun can enable even more.
College Football Hall of Fame Fan Experience Manager Robert Bready shared how the Chick-fil-A Fan Experience uses RFID to make each exhibit personal, showing examples of technology screens welcoming guests by name and flashing up their favorite football team’s logo and player photos upon entering. The opt-in for this type of interaction has been made an expectation of arriving at the hall of fame, and staff reinforce that face-to-face. To further increase willingness to opt-in, the hall collects only three pieces of data on each guest: name, email and favorite team. Using just that the hall is able to create very rich attendee experiences onsite and encourage social sharing of media the guests create to spread the word about the hall.
On the opposite end of the technology spectrum, Kristin Torres of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association shared a very successful campaign at her show, the Mustache Bash. By tapping into the humans at her show, many of whom sport mustaches, Torres and her team were able to create a very fun attendee engagement program that hit across several channels including social media, power points while waiting for general sessions, custom videos and a party featuring Jeff Foxworthy. The campaign was a hit even among the TSNN Awards conference community as many gentlemen in the room have mustaches.
The lesson: Remember you are dealing with people.
Both those lessons were reinforced by Brian Casey, President and CEO of The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), and Rick McConnell, President of Informa US, both of whom stressed that staying close to your community, whether you are a for-profit organization, media conglomerate or member-based association, is a key to providing organizational value and expanding your business.
“It’s really about community,” Casey says. That is particularly true for millennials, who are skeptical of traditional advertising and marketing and instead rely on their communities, vastly online in social media channels.
Changing up business methods, redesigning the form and function of trade show spaces, ultimately drawing your community closer to boost retention and earn referrals, is the way forward.
“Trade show organizers lean too heavily on selling real estate,” McConnell says. “If you’re doing the same things, you’re going to see your shows get smaller.”