Written by Lindsay Perez, Assistant Manager of Conferences and Tradeshows and Niki Kinkelaar, CMP, Senior Conference Manager.
Conferences, especially those with a tradeshow component, evolve and change with each passing year. No longer are events a robotic series of speakers offering more ways to create ‘death by PowerPoint‘ and feature a steady stream of buffet-style meals.
Let’s explore three top trends for hosting organizations and sponsors to consider to maximize their investment.
1. Less Booth Space, Same Budget
More and more hosts and sponsors are downsizing or eliminating trade show booths. What sponsoring partners are really looking for is more face time and engagement with attendees; specifically, decision-makers for companies, buyers, etc. While we see a shrinking booth footprint, we do not see a reduction in sponsorship dollars spent. Companies are being more strategic with their dollars, spending money on opportunities that give them face time with attendees or clear marketing opportunities.
Large sponsors are moving away from traditional booths and investing in meeting rooms or lounges where they can invite current and prospective customers to hosted meal functions, receptions and product demos. The more informal, the more inviting these meetings feel. This opens a casual, less structured conversation that results in customers sharing their thoughts, ideas and wants more freely with our partners.
The downside for hosts is that these sponsor investments may interfere with host activities, but smaller spaces and less show floor movement is forcing the sponsor’s hands in order to see a return on investment.
2. More ‘Show’ on the Show Floor
Exhibit halls are no longer simply lined with booth after booth. There is more ‘show’ on the show floor. Exhibitors and hosts are looking for more interactive ways to bring people on to the show floor and into exhibit booths. It’s becoming harder and harder for sponsors to simply show up with goodies and spark a conversation.
Attendees have gotten really good at evading what feels like unwanted connections. Out of the box and shared experiences are becoming popular. They serve as ice breakers which makes it easier to connect and network with industry peers. Exhibitors are moving beyond massage chairs, free swag, and charging stations and instead are shifting their focus to gaming and the arts. We’re seeing video games, virtual sports, caricature artists and custom designed lattes with company logos in the frothed milk.
Attendee engagement is built on dynamic-learning opportunities. The focus used to be solely on one big-name keynote speaker and now attendees crave more interactive, hands-on training, and more involvement in educational sessions.
We are seeing formats shift from single-speaker lectures to more roundtables, workshops and even shorter, deep dives into very specific topics. Dynamic-Learning is about maximizing the return on attendee’s time invested in the event, and hopefully, with sponsors and the host organization. Hosts or sponsors could offer CE credits for example. Offering an event that is shorter in length, yet packed full of non-stop information, networking and engagement opportunities will help increase attendance at an event and attendee satisfaction.
As a host organization and a sponsoring partner, it is important to understand the “yin” and “yang” of a conference tradeshow. All parties need interaction and ROI to protect their interests, and they need one another to find the balance that supports attendee engagement and education. With these three trends in mind, take the time to get creative and craft experiences that last.
Interested in M&IW’s Conference and Tradeshow event management services? Visit https://www.meetings-incentives.com/event-services/ to learn more.