Trade show conferences are gathering spots for favored clients, client prospects, industry leaders, as well as competitors. Trade show visitors, however, have hectic schedules. They are busy attending educational industry seminars, networking with their colleagues, learning about new products and seeing first-hand the latest innovations in their specific fields. But it is also important to note that trade show attendees have unscheduled times of the day and evening when they can pick and choose what they’d like to do. This is your company’s golden opportunity to entertain and educate trade show attendees about innovative aspects of your company.
But how do you go about capturing the trade show visitors after or before the hours of the trade show exhibit? Do you want to reward your targeted list of clients and suppliers with a special recognition outside the trade show display arena? Do you want to have your executives and sales representatives get to know the power players of your industry to increase your sales? If you decide you want to host a rewarding and satisfying event, how can you plan for a venue that your trade show display visitors will clamor to attend?
These are the questions that can best be fielded by the professional meeting and event planner. According to Karla Krause-Miller, Director, Cappa and Graham, Inc. , the event planning company in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the more creative the venue outside the trade show display, the better. First she identifies the client’s primary objectives and goals, whether they are educational, or a special recognition ceremony, or a strictly social time. Then make the decision on where to hold your event- whether it is a museum, gallery, private home, mansion, cruise, winery tour or even a Wax museum.
After you have decided on the venue, you then need to find a tie-in to your trade show exhibit theme—one that supports your business and trade show marketing messages. Let that theme of your trade show display drive the central promotional concept for your special event.
Next come the invitations. Where you might send a highly targeted list of trade show exhibit visitors a hand stamped, handwritten invitation, you might merely send an email blast to hundreds of trade show attendees. A good way to build trade show booth traffic is to request that your trade show display guests pick up their special event invitations at your trade show exhibit. That way, you not only have a better accounting of how many people will attend, but you will also give your trade show booth staff an opportunity to talk with VIP trade show visitors.
According to Miller who has handled the full range of events based on clients’ needs, from a hospitality suite at a hotel to a large gala at City Hall, each organized program starts with identifying whom you want to attend.
For example, if you plan to invite a medical group, your event planner must be aware of FDA guidelines and follow them explicitly. Be aware that there may be a dollar limit per person that the FDA requires you stay within. And if you want to attract medical personnel attending a medical trade show, offering Continuing Education Credits (CEU) is a real plus.
Another key element to event planning is to make the meeting memorable –like staging an activity that attendees could not easily do by themselves. An example is to arrange a luncheon with a demonstration of special pairings of wines given by the owner of a prestigious winery.
Another example of good event planning is imparting an emotional message that ties in with the special mindset of the group. For instance, a key ingredient in making a recognition event successful for the Chapter Presidents of American Association of Critical Care Nurses was that they identified with their speaker’s circumstances at their recognition luncheon. Rosey Grier, former football player who was at the side of Bobby Kennedy when he was shot, was the guest speaker at this nurses’ luncheon. When he talked about that tragic day and described the hectic and emotional scene that ensued after Kennedy was killed, there was not a dry eye in the house.
By thinking in terms of who your attendees are, you will be able to plan an event that is appropriate whether it is close by at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago, the Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the Santa Clara Convention Center or the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
Remember, when your company plans to exhibit at a trade show, if you extend your hospitality outside the trade show booth in a venue that ties into your trade show marketing theme, you will succeed in gaining better attention, building goodwill and standing out in comparison to your competition.
Dick Wheeler is President of Professional Exhibits & Graphics, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with showroom in Sacramento. Firm is full-service premiere trade show exhibit, graphics and management services company. http://www.proexhibits.com