1: Easy to navigate website: I cannot stress this enough. Attending 700+ trade events per year gives us a little bit of knowledge on this topic.
Website’s Front page:
- 1. Big Honking Registration button
- 2. Search feature (try google’s – it’s free)
- 3. Brief UPDATED description of what your current show offers. No one cares that in 2013 40K people attended – save that for your exhibitor’s page.
- 4. Link to What’s new for 20xx (pick a year this advice is timeless)
- 5. Clear navigation tools
2. PR in Advance- aka Social Media: Set up your twitter # (hashtag) at least 3 months in advance & put it in your twitter description. Make it simple like #ShowNameYear Set up your 4Sq – I cannot tell you how many shows overlook this tool. It is invaluable to finding who else is attending that might be a good cross match to both your attendees & exhibitors. Same with Instagram. If you don’t have a trade show account, get one then encourage all your exhibitors and attendees to post their photos with the present up # (that is the SAME as your twitter one- can’t believe i have to write that)
3. Badge Pick up vs Onsite Registration: The advantage of registering prior to the show is to make it faster from the badge pick up to the show/conference floor. It should not include having to show 30 pieces of ID in order to retrieve your badge. It’s like voter registration: less than 1% of people will be fraudulently trying to to attend your show. Make it easy for those who do. (I’m looking at you #CONExpo – 2 hour wait, lines back up to the street – not a good start) Speaking of badges. Even the most technical show should have a trade show only options. Especially if you are in a large market venue like Orlando, New York or Las Vegas. If it’s a medical conference – sometimes the staff of a practice can benefit from just attending the trade show but not at 1K per head. Or maybe someone is thinking of getting into a career in aviation. What better way to find out what opportunities are available than attending the trade show.
4. New Product Showcase: How hard is it to carve a space out on your trade show floor, upcharge your exhibitors a set amount and post a list of participants with new products on your website? Not hard at all and worth it to both attendees who are looking to expand or upgrade their lines and for exhibitors looking for new clients. Win-Win. And event management looks like a champ!
5. Social Meetup: No matter what your business is, there is always a need for personal engagement. Sometimes a conference and trade show are the only interaction many companies have with their peers. Sure everyone has a group breakfast or dinner but it always includes a speaker and/or presentations/awards. Not much time to meet & greet. So why not offer a ‘tweet-up‘ on the show floor. Like the new product showcase, you can carve out 100 feet – put a couple of chairs there and at 4pm or 10am or 2pm have a daily “Tweet & meet.” One of the best peer to peer engagements we’ve ever seen or been to is at the annual Exhibitor’s Expo. they have a big white board called Dinner with Strangers. Every night they have a dozen or so restaurants & a facilitator who coordinates the dinner. It’s usually limited to 6-10 diners. there is a set menu of $25-35 – and you have dinner with people you don’t know. Its a great way to expand interactions among attendees/vendors and for those who are the sole person from their company or they are new to the industry they don’t have to dine alone. At the NAB show, TWIT-Tv sponsors a photo walk down the strip. they limit it to 100 participants but every year they pick a different section and stroll along snapping pictures with their cameras, cell phones & tablets. afterwards they meet up for cocktails and share their adventures.
It is no longer just booking conference space & having a trade show. It’s about engagement pre-during-post show. Most of these should be intuitive but it is surprising how many conference planners forget they are in the service business and attendees/exhibitors are their customers.