Originally published in Trade Show Executive, Mar 2015 Issue

Throughout my career, I have been to hundreds of events, ranging from exhibitions to executive conferences to a combination of the two. Some were good, some were bad, some were great and a few were excellent. At the time, I couldn’t wholly put my finger on why an event was good or bad. It was just an overall impression that I left with. Was it the presentation of space? Was it the content? Was it the people I met with? After 40 years in the business, I have come to realize it was for two reasons – experience and engagement.

So, how is this defined? In short, when you create a pleasing physical environment, the brain is more receptive to learning, to creating and associating positive feelings and outcomes with an event. The intricacies of the human spirit – personality types, life experiences, cultural differences, to name a few – must be taken into account to successfully create engagement at an event. But the key to successful engagement is very subjective. It only works if you truly understand your audience’s wants, desires, challenges and goals they are facing in their businesses. It’s no longer about one way communication to your target audience. You have to provide, and really plan and think about, how to create the best learning experience and environment that will resonate with your attendees long after the show is over.

Now back to my opening paragraph about my overall impression of a show. I have learned over the years that the attendee experience is not just about the content or the space design or the people I met at an event. It’s the whole package carefully constructed to guide me down a positive path from the minute I open that first marketing email, to the time I leave the show for home.

And, it’s not just about creating engagement at the show. How does engagement translate from a finite point in time – the show – to extending your brand or messaging throughout the year? When an attendee has a positive experience, you have the making of a brand advocate, thus cementing a foundation to create loyal communities. At IAEE, we are focused on building these communities. I firmly believe that the conversation does not start and stop with an event, but continues year round.

When your audience or advocates are excited about your initiatives or enthusiastic to share their experiences from your latest event, there is no better form of disseminating your value proposition. Peer to peer marketing, a key ingredient in building communities, is another essential element to further establishing a loyal following. Communities establish stakeholders in your brand by giving them part ownership of your success.

In the end, it is important to recognize the value of two-way communication. IAEE values input and seeks input from our membership at all levels. We want our audience actively engaged in the formation of our content. When everyone has a stake in the outcome, we all benefit.

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President and CEO
IAEE

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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