Each year show management is challenged with the task of making their expo or conference even more exciting and innovative than the year before. Here are 5 tips for getting your creative juices flowing in order to achieve excellence year after year!
1) BECOME AN ATTENDEE. Sometimes you need to walk in the shoes of an attendee to truly experience what your event is like. If your company plans multiple events each year, ask if you can attend an event that you are NOT involved in planning. Or register for an industry event that you have heard great things about. Take note of your experience from beginning to end including registration, communication, travel, website, print, mobile, onsite signage, kiosks, sessions, events, and networking. Ask other attendees what they do or do not like about the event. Find out what attendees are looking for. Observe anything the event got right that was memorable and would bring you back next year. Also observe what bothered you that could have been done better, even little things. Each time you attend an event you should become a sponge and learn as much as possible.
2) GET FEEDBACK. There are many ways to get feedback from attendees. One of the best ways is to interview attendees onsite and get live feedback while the event is happening. Have dedicated staff strategically placed who will interview attendees and ask questions. The three most important questions would be: “What did you like best? What can we improve on? and What would get you excited to come back next year?” Another way to get feedback is using surveys. Surveys can be used for specific feedback on a session or for general feedback on your event. Surveys can be posted on your website, integrated into your mobile app, or sent via email. How you decide to get feedback is up to you, but most important is that you DO get feedback, and show your attendees that you are listening and are open to their ideas.
3) CREATE A THEME. Find out what’s trending right now and incorporate it into the theme of your event. Switching it up and having a new and exciting theme every year will give both your attendees and your exhibitors something to look forward to. Having an event theme will give you something to follow when planning your event. You can apply the event theme to onsite signage, the event website, the mobile app, and almost every other aspect of your event. If your event is in a warm location, incorporate sunshine and the beautiful weather into your theme. If a fun or slightly silly theme is appropriate for your event, look into what’s popular on the internet. Everyone loves cats, memes, and mustache pictures! Just pick a fun and event-appropriate theme and commit to it.
4) SENSATIONAL SESSIONS. Now more than ever, attendees are demanding more from the typical lecture-style sessions offered. Step outside the box and seek out speakers who offer more. Find speakers who bring a new “experience” to the table. Speakers who offer creative settings, engagement methods, and powerful takeaways. Try to offer a completely unique experience in each session room. Have one room set up in clusters with couches and chairs-ideal for breakout groups. Set up another room in a circle with buyers on one side and sellers on the other. Have another room set up with computers, iPads, Microsoft Surface tablets, etc. where attendees can play with new technologies entering your industry. Whatever you do, mix it up and keep the attendees engaged and active, rather than passive and sleepy.
5) MAKE IT SOCIAL. There are many ways to do this, but not all will be a good fit for your event. To pick the right one, you first must determine what kind of social tools or events your attendees would enjoy and use most, or what kind of events their businesses would benefit from. Examples might be: PHOTO BOOTH (fun)-Set up a photo booth that allows your attendees to take fun pictures of themselves at your event, then post them to their Facebook wall or twitter feed where they can share it! This is fun because it is all about them and attendees are more likely to share a picture of themselves than any promotion your event pushes out. MEET UP (business)-Schedule several smaller networking events (possibly sponsored at night at a local destination) that are designed to put two groups of buyers and sellers of a specific category together. Give them a game or activity that helps them engage and meet as many people as possible in the room.
TAKEAWAY: Great events will always strive to create a memorable experience that fulfills the needs of everyone involved and bring them back again year after year.