Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2017

Eight Ways to Re-Engergize Your Trade Show

The expo hall, ideally, is the heartbeat of the event, where you want your attendees to go when keynotes and sessions are not scheduled. Yet at many meetings, the expo hall is not a place where attendees want to hang out. Here are eight ways to change that dynamic:

1. Treat the expo hall like an experiential extension of the rest of your meeting. Too often the expo is conceived as something separate and disconnected from the “main event.” Strategically design the expo so that it is consistent with the theme, goals and branded identity of your event. Attendees stepping into the exhibition area shouldn’t feel like they are leaving the meeting.

2. Bring meeting content to the show floor to draw and engage more attendees. For example, schedule TED-style talks and follow-up interviews with main stage speakers in the expo hall. Many medical and scientific groups create a separate space for poster sessions and abstract presentations in specially created spaces on the show floor.

3. Live stream from the show floor. Camera and lights always create a buzz of excitement wherever they appear so why not in the expo hall? Live stream interviews with exhibitors, attendees, speakers and key event personnel.

4. Create inviting community spaces to foster networking, relaxation, creativity. Go beyond a few comfy lounge chairs and refreshment table. Design an area that has a sense of place.

5. Go diagonal. Many innovative floor plans use a diagonal aisle as the main lane, directing traffic to a central area that functions as the association’s headquarters, where attendees can find information about the association, perhaps have their picture taken and meet key leadership personnel.

6. Zone Out. Consider introducing zones on the show floor that engage attendees in different ways. For example, an innovation zone could feature new products, cutting-edge technology and start-up enterprises. A Sports Zone provides a place where attendees can take a break and play games like foosball, watch a game on TV and maybe have a beer.

7. Rethink food and beverage service. Some groups don’t do lunch buffets because it encourages people to take too long and take too much. Rather they do tray service in different areas of the show floor to encourage people to move around.

8. Bring good works to the show floor. Corporate social responsibility is by now part of every successful event. Usually CSR activities are showcased in public areas of the convention center. Why not bring CSR to the show floor? One tech association sponsored code-learning for kids and showcased the effort by creating a space on the show floor where attendees could see kids working with volunteers to learn code. — Regina McGee

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