Your Success is Our Success.

Engagement Opportunities

It’s no secret that the most successful shows excel at creating engagement opportunities for their attendees and exhibitors. Attendees crave active participation and exhibitors base their success on the ability to have meaningful interactions with customers, prospects and partners. Here are a number of engagement trends and tech innovations for you to consider as you improve your trade show experience.

Illustrate Your Event

Illustrate Your Event - Engagement Opportunities

Studies have shown that students retain more information through a combination of verbal and visual learning. Adding a visual component to your educational sessions can have a greater impact on the success of your event. Companies like Ink Factory engage on various levels for visual learning, but the overall idea is that they ingest your content and output it through graphics, charts, diagrams, and visual storytelling to help your audience learn. Not only can illustrations be powerful during the event, but can be used in various ways post event to further provide education and help spark memories.

Role-Playing and Simulating Exercises

In an article posted by Associations Now, written by Samantha Whitehorne, she highlights a growing-in-popularity, immersive learning technique at conferences: Role Playing and Simulating. Whitehorne writes “… attendees rolled up their sleeves and worked at solving a problem affecting them or their association’s industry. They also got to know each other and worked together in an atypical networking environment.”

Video Professional (Confessional) Booth

What would reality TV be without the confessional interviews? Playing off that, at our annual customer event, we created a Video Profession booth structured around the idea of paying it forward to the events industry and community. We built a sound room, set up camera equipment, posted questions and had an associate facilitate interviews through the conference. Instead of asking them to dish on the meeting, we asked them to share useful advice for event professionals and a series of other questions. It engaged our audience by getting them to reflect on their own experience, by giving them an outlet to be part of the community and it was also an easy way for the marketing department to collect different types of content to use in various ways for future videos and campaigns.

Coloring Booth

Image credit: redhat.

What if your entire booth was one big canvas? That’s exactly what Red Hat did in their exhibit seen at SXSW’s SX Create. SX Create is a community platform that “showcases  the disruptive solutions that are shaping our future” and this area caters heavily to a young and hands on demographic. Attendees were able to color every inch of the exhibit, including white bean bag chairs. Knowing your audience and building engagement activities that cater to them is an integral part in the success of any engagement idea.

Graffiti Wall – Aspiration and Inspiration

Graffiti Walls are an easy and cost efficient way to engage your attendees by creating a space for them to share their ideas and thoughts in a public forum. These walls have gained recent popularity and awareness from a public art project, Before I Die, by Candy Chang that features large chalk walls that invite the community to share their aspirations. These installations have shown huge success and community engagement in cities across the globe and can be easily utilized at face-to-face experiences.

Beacon Technology – Personalization

Beacons are one of the latest tools that take advantage of both mobile technology and proximity. Beacons are small transmitting devices that communicate using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). It’s an upgraded version of the Bluetooth technology we’ve been using for years to pair our smartphones with headsets.

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At events, beacons allow targeted messages to be sent to people at a specific time and place. When combined with mobile applications, strategically-placed beacons can provide valuable information and improve an attendee’s experience. Here are some effective event tactics enabled by beacon technology:

  • Attendees are notified when someone they want to meet is nearby
  • Attendees receive game pieces to an interactive event game
  • Attendees walk by a booth and learn that there is something relevant to their needs in the booth
  • Confirmation of session attendance for CEU credits
  • Attendees receive downloadable educational or product information to enhance their learning experience
  • Attendees can see where they are and where they want to go on a venue map
  • Exhibitors collect information about attendees while providing them with customized information
  • Organizers collect valuable real-time data to help improve their events

New innovations in beacon technology are quickly becoming available to event organizers to enhance their attendee’s experience, exhibitor’s ROI, and their own events.

New Educational Formats

As the demographics of our trade show attendees continue to shift towards millennials, the importance of professional development and education continues to rise as a primary reason for attending. Modern-day learners favor “bite-size” learning with healthy doses of activities and interaction.

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Podium-based sessions are quickly giving way to new models. One such brain-friendly model recommends that attendees focus for approximately 10 to 20 minutes, such as through a mini-lecture, followed by a two- to three-minute break such as discussion, reflection or other type of engagement. Of course the break can be longer to increase engagement. Physiologically, your neurons are keen and alert for no more than 20 consecutive minutes. At the end of those 20 minutes, your neurons have gone from full-fledged alert to total collapse, and it takes two to three minutes for those neurons to be completely recovered and back to the total alert state. So, mix up the instruction with attendee activity. 10-20 minutes instruction followed by two-ten minutes of activity.

TED-style presentations, Pecha Kucha and other short presentations follow the limits of our working memory. These presentation methods do work at reducing cognitive overload, however, they omit the importance of attendee interaction and engagement. Attendees can’t focus on listening and focus on thinking at the same time. It’s one or the other. They need to think to learn. And if they can’t think, they can’t connect it to their own situation. Nor can they recall that information to apply it later because they didn’t learn it.

Here’s an article that explores how event design affects the way people learn:

Speed Dating – Targeted Networking

Our FMI clients have created a new benefit for their exhibitors and attendees, called the CBX (FMI Connect Business Exchange). This is a free benefit for FMI Connect exhibitors that consists of a dedicated CBX meeting area in the exhibit hall, a CBX Scheduler tool that matches exhibitors with attendees for partnering meetings, One-on-One Meetings scheduled to maximize time, Meet the Retailer sessions, and Meet & Learn sessions.

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Launched last year at FMI Connect, this program proved to be a huge hit with exhibiting companies and the retailer/wholesaler attendees. The core of the program is the One-on-One meeting area - a sea of tables and private meeting suites. Using the scheduler, exhibitors can easily accept and request 20-minute meetings with customers and prospects. A large digital clock counts down the meeting time as well as the 5-minute break times.

By providing this program, FMI has created an invaluable layer of engagement for their exhibitors and attendees, and increased the overall value of their show.

To learn more:

Sound Isolation Rooms – Enhanced Environments

Exhibitors measure their success by the quality and quantity of engagements at your show. Some engagements may not be best served in their booth on an open trade show floor. Sound isolation rooms offer organizers and exhibitors the opportunity to create new environments directly on the exhibit floor for a variety of such activities.

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  • Private product demonstrations
  • Press room interviews
  • Career center
  • Media Theaters
  • Noise level demos of products
  • Customer/Prospect meeting rooms

Shepard offers sound isolation rooms that are flexibly configured (with ceilings), air-conditioned, adjustable lighting, and fully customizable with graphics and branding. To learn more:

Personalize – Data-Driven Marketing

We all appreciate experiences that are customized to meet our personal needs. This holds true for attendees as well. Being recognized as individuals with discrete needs and having the tools to help them achieve their objectives are key to a valuable experience.

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Here are some tips on how technology can engage attendees - it goes without saying that a fully-engaged attendee will lift the energy and collaborative spirit of your event.

  • Collect detailed data when an attendee registers for your event. The more you know about them and their needs, the more you can tailor their experience.
  • Ensure they have online access to their profiles so they can update.
  • Using their data, provide them with personalized lists of matched sessions and exhibitors.
  • Enable attendees to connect (via messaging or email) with exhibitors to make inquiries and set-up appointments.
  • Enable exhibitors to connect with attendees with targeted information.
  • Provide online chat and email support so attendees can easily connect with you (show organizer) for questions and support.
  • Encourage attendees to follow you on social media and to opt-in to receive text messages you can keep them updated with changes and special announcements, and so they can be involved in the conversation.
  • Use an online survey to solicit valuable feedback - people appreciate the opportunity to express their opinions. Also, reach out to any not-so-satisfied attendees to acknowledge their concerns and work with them to provide an improved experience next time around.
  • Extend the life of your event by keeping your online portal live after the show, enabling attendees and exhibitors to keep the conversation going.

Three keys to remember: 1) Know Them 2) Engage Them 3) Create Community

The retail industry is a great source of trend-setting personalization techniques. Here’s an article from our friends @HubSpot to get you started: