Originally published in Trade Show Executive, Apr 2015 Issue

Crafting an experience. Creating engagement. These are mantras we live by and it seems simple enough. In reality it is very time consuming and is a crucial, if not THE fundamental driver in making your show and brand a success. Show organizers that do not have a good grip on their attendees’ motivations, business goals and needs will sometimes slowly, and sometimes quickly, fade away. The days of pushing information and ideas onto people without some kind of two way communication are long gone. Show organizers must create an experience that resonates with their target audience, not only for the event at hand, but for future events down the road. This, in my opinion, is the key to long term success. An important aspect for creating a valued experience is the engagement strategy from initial concept to the show floor experience and finally continued engagement post event. One has to understand their audience’s preferences and what they value or they simply will not be successful.

How do we understand our audience, and create engagement and an experience? We talk to them. We survey them. We embark upon grassroots follow up to make sure attendees are engaged all year long. We create communities to have their voices heard…WE COMMUNICATE. How can you create an event without the knowledge of what your attendees want or need?

In last month’s perspective, I said 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. This will remain true for as long we create events.

Let’s talk now about data, and big data. You have to collect data – the right kind of data – for your purposes, to begin to understand your audience. We hear it all the time and we throw this terminology around. While there is an endless amount of data to be gleaned from an event, when does it become prohibitive? What or when is the tipping point where you lose sight of the overall goal when analyzing data?

A recent report by CEIR on Big Data had some interesting findings including: most b2b exhibition organizers are using data analytics at differing levels and the most popular use of data analytics is for making business decisions. There is a lot of great information in this report and I encourage you to download it from the CEIR website.

Aside from data, your team has to be in sync. There must be synergy between the all departments and marketing. It is no longer about feeding information to your marketing folks and saying “make it look pretty.” Marketing is the tool to effectively communicate your vision to attendees. Marketing has to understand the motivation behind why a specific session was created, or why a trade show floor was designed a certain way in order to support with effective messaging. Lastly, I will leave you with these words of advice: listen to your attendees. If someone takes the time to give you feedback, good or bad, don’t forget it. Share it with your team. Analyze why something worked or didn’t work. Your attendees will notice when you listen to them.

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

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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