Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle. Click here for a link.
Has it been awhile since you would describe your exhibit hall as bustling with energy? Instead of convincing attendees that it’s important to support exhibitors, design an exhibit hall your attendees don’t want to leave.
Create an appealing environment
Test your hall. Walk in as if you were a first-time attendee. Do you feel drawn in it? Many of us order coordinating carpet, pipe and drape and call it decorated.
Look above and around the booths and identify low-cost ways to add any visuals, color, graphics, lights, etc. Up lights are one of the least expensive ways to create a dramatic effect. Well-designed signs add art, as well as facilitate attendees’ visit.
Consider all senses when planning. In addition to visuals, how can you also introduce scent, sound, touch and/or taste? Consider the energy level you want to achieve. Don’t play calming music when you want an animated crowd.
Ensure that enhancements do not detract from your goal—your target audience talking with exhibitors. (Which is why I do not allow announcements of any kind in an exhibit hall.)
Get the right exhibitors
Don’t settle for only the obvious. Ask your audience which companies are missing. Who would drive them into the exhibit hall?
Desirable destinations are a draw. Create a desire to be where the cool suppliers will be.
If you think an interested company is not a good match for your target audience, ensure you make it clear to them. Bad fits result in disappointed exhibitors and participants.
Give your exhibitors lots of TLC
Happy exhibitors have more energy, which rubs off on participants, which makes them happy to be there, which keeps them in the hall.
TLC can mean lots of things; customize it to your exhibitors. Maybe it’s lots of hand-holding pre-event, a few extra drink tickets, or visits from association VIPs. If you’re unsure, ask exhibitors how you could enhance their personal experiences.
ONE AWESOME IDEA
Design a Hall of Experiences, not an exhibit hall
Invite exhibitors to sell experiences. Not every exhibitor will be able to fulfill this challenge, but many will. The goal is for participants to experience the benefits of using products and services. An experiential introduction will stick with people longer than a sales pitch. Be creative and challenge your exhibitors to be, too.
See how Girls Scouts of the USA’s exhibit hall includes a Hall of Experiences at its G.I.R.L. convention—click here.
Catherine Simmons, VP, Strategic Events at Salesforce.com spoke at the PCMA Northern California Chapters’ L.E.A.P. Conference last month in Oakland. She presented, “Bringing Dreamforce to Life,” a description of how her team reflected Dreamforce’s 2016 Trailhead theme in a 37,800 s.f. space called Campground. Other themed convention areas were also designed for experiential participation, all based on the Trailhead theme. Check it out on Facebook and in a Convene article.
Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!