target personas


An Open Letter From A Decision-Maker Attendee To A Show Organizer

To open the New Year, I am thrilled to get Michelle Bruno’s perspective on the experience of a decision-maker attendee. She’s a good friend and straight talker, so with pleasure, here’s her open letter to all of us:

 

Dear Show Organizer:

 

You’ve convinced me to register.

 

When I Googled your event website, it was great that you optimized your content to make it easy for me to find you.

 

But I had to read a lot of irrelevant information before finding out quickly what was in it for me and there was no phone number to call to speak with a human. Nevertheless, I figured it out for myself and signed up anyway.

 

When I registered, you made no attempt to understand who I was and what I wanted through surveys or session choices. But since you had already hooked me, I went with the flow.

 

I don’t have time for serendipity.

 

When I go to your event, I feel as if I’ve become one of the hundreds or thousands of other attendees who took the bait and suddenly I’m on my own.

 

I’m really busy. Taking time away from the office is difficult for me to justify. Yet, no one reaches out to answer my obvious questions—Who should I meet? What companies should I visit? What should I learn? There are no attempts to help me get the most out of the event in the least amount of time.

 

You track my every move with technology, but you don’t do anything with the information other than feed it into your marketing machine with the intent to lure me back next year.

 

If I’m really interested in a session, you make me work for the information—take notes, snap photos of slides with my smartphone, go to a website to get a copy of the presentation. Why don’t you capture the information for me and just send it to me automatically?

 

After the event, show me you know me.

 

I understand that maybe it’s hard to meet with me during the event—there are only so many of your staff and just three days. But after the event, you’ve got a whole year to continue our relationship.

 

Stop sending me information for the following year as if we’ve never interacted. You have data on me now. You know what I’m interested in. Let’s start there.

 

Change your relationship with me from transactional to (long term) relational. Pick up the phone and/or meet with me. I’ll know that you’re truly interested in addressing my needs and I’ll likely attend your event again.

 

Make it really easy for me to come back the following year with my team members. A good experience for me is worth sharing.

 

From this point on, don’t only contact me when you want to sell me.  Remember what I want and send me good ideas and information year round.

 

In case I haven’t made it clear, here’s what I’m trying to say.

 

I’m a human, not a data point. Get to know me and deliver a personalized experience to me all year round. Put yourself in my shoes and let’s get to know each other.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your Most Loyal Decision-Maker Attendee (maybe).

 

 

 

As a former supplier and conference planner/trade show manager, Michelle sees the technology and evolution of the live-event industry through a unique lens. She chronicles change through articles in event-industry publications, event-tech company blogs and at EventTechBrief.com. Reach Michelle at michelle@brunogroup.com

 


Your Event Marketing. Is it Charming, Creepy, or Clueless?

Like many others, as a consumer I’ve come to pay attention to my email inbox in terms of what attracts me to open a message versus ignore/delete it. I’ve also begun to notice those messages that are too familiar in their tone or are too presumptuous in the way they direct me to take some action when it’s the first time I’ve ever heard from them.

 

After some observation and reflection, I have come to classify email messages into three categories:

 

  • Charming- These messages successfully identify needs, send the right message at the right time, are well targeted, and anticipate ‘move the needle’ moments in ways that are likely to prompt a positive response and ‘buying’ action;

 

  • Creepy- These intrusive, highly “personal” communications purport to know the score of your daughter’s soccer game and the team’s season record. They also tend to present their “sell” messages too early in the interaction[s] and are pushy and out of step in terms of their relationship with you and your organization;

 

  • Clueless- These messages are not personalized, or worse, they may reference actions – like a purchase – that you have never taken. They might make incorrect gender assumptions or otherwise struggle with how to address someone when gender is not known. Or they send messages with the missing/wrong job titles, send them to individuals who no longer are employed or perhaps might even be deceased. Their mistakes illustrate how little has been spent on the quality of their lists and the completeness and accuracy of their data.

 

Unfortunately, in our age of ‘Analyze Everything’ the availability of data and the propensity to try to leverage it does not ensure that the right actions are taken. Far too many organizations do the wrong things with the data they have, resulting in creepy pseudo-personalization or embarrassing, clueless moments. Neither result benefits the sender of those messages.

 

I wonder if this also applies to us in the event world.  What does this mean for you?

 

If your communications are ‘charming’, then you are in the top tier of organizations with messages that attract responses. You’ll have no trouble getting your prospects to volunteer information in ways that can serve both of you better. Your communications have a tone, familiarity – and timing – that invites positive response.

 

If your messages are creepy or clueless, you’ll also see a response. But it will be in the number of “unsubscribes” that you get. And it will be in your best interest to figure out why or end up with an unengaged database….


Six Factors That Will Kill Your Event

During my time in the events business I’ve seen a fair number of successful events, as well as witnessed some failures. In my experience, there are some key factors that, in some combination, will guarantee the failure of your event. Here’s what I believe are the critical mistakes that event organizers make.

 

1) Taking attendees for granted

This can mean that you don’t seek their feedback or, even worse, if you do solicit it, you fail to take any action in response. If you are not paying attention to your customers you are also not likely to be paying close attention to the direction your market is heading in either. You are likely not that attentive to the attendees’ onsite experience as long as you succeed in getting them onto the exhibit floor. And you have probably never picked up the phone and spoken to an attendee with the intent of engaging with them vs. responding to a problem that they bring to your attention.

This is the ‘build it and they will come’ factor.

 

2) Taking exhibitors for granted

You fail to go the extra mile for exhibitors when something is needed onsite or you ignore them until it’s time to rebook. You raise prices without good supporting reasons. You have no idea what creates the ROI that will attract exhibitors to return to your event. You don’t have personal connections with any of CMO’s or VP’s of Marketing that make the decisions about coming to your event.

This is the ‘my show is more important than you’ factor.

 

3) Hiring the wrong people

I’ve hired many people and the best were those with a “can do”, rather than “9-5” attitude – regardless of their skill or experience level. These are the staff members who will dig in when things are hard and will find the answer when it’s not obvious. The good ones are those who allow you to sleep at night because you know they have your back. In contrast, the wrong people are ‘the throw you under the bus’, the ‘it’s not my job’, or ‘it’s not possible’ people. They will fold under pressure and disappear when their effort is needed.

This is the ‘not my problem’ factor.

 

4) Not doing your homework

When doing your annual forecasts, do you understand the market conditions or the state of the competition? Are you able to react when something changes or are you unaware of what is really going on?  Do you know the strengths and weakness of your show and are you in a position to do anything about them?

This is the ‘what me, worry?’ factor

 

5) Not building and tapping into your network

Most people only tap into their network when they need something, often then finding that the network is not extensive enough to address what’s needed. There is enough expertise in this business such that you should be able to find expertise within or outside of your network and gain assistance quickly. If this is not the case, get out of the office and meet some people not just sit behind the computer.

This is the ’Me Myself and I’ factor

 

6) Not taking care of your database

Do you know what the bounce rate of your attendee base is? The opt out rate? Have you segmented your database so that you can easily send out targeted messaging to your top personas? If the answer to any one of these questions is “no”, then you have some back office work to do. If you don’t understand the numbers, or the content of one of your prized assets, your event will suffer.

This is the ‘my tools don’t need cleaning’ factor.

 

Having any one of these factors will damage your event, but two or more in combination will eventually kill it. Beware and act so that your event does not become one of the victims….


To Cancel or Not Cancel Your Struggling Event: That is the Question

Recently a number of my industry colleagues have had to make decisions about whether or not to cancel their events which were struggling. In my twenty-six years in this industry, I can count on one hand the events that I’ve had to cancel after launch, so I count myself lucky on mostly avoiding the scenario.

What are the factors that should determine whether you should cancel event, once you are rolling?

 

1) Have you done your research?

The biggest reason to prompt an event’s cancellation is not hitting your numbers.  If you foresee a financial loss that could not be tolerated or if running an event risks a greater loss than what would be incurred in terminating it, a decision must be made.  This situation usually stems from the absence of detailed surveys of both potential sponsors/exhibitors that gauge whether they will support your show financially. If you can’t accurately forecast your exhibit revenue before launch, you’re in for a harrowing, white knuckle ride.

Likewise, on the attendee side, have you done response testing to see the interest level? Are you right about conference/expo fees to charge – or not?  Do you have an ‘event resume’ that summarizes the event and its value on a single page? Do you know the acquisition cost of each attendee and established the appropriate marketing budget?

These are just a few of the things to consider. Check out a past article, inspired by Sean Guerre, for more insights on this area.

 

2) What is your rebook rate?

At a former company, we achieved a 100% rebook rate on most large events, primarily because we were selling many shows 24 months in advance.  Rebooking was our metric of success. But if your rebook rate is below 50% it‘s that your event is churning and burning exhibitors. Do you know why this is happening? Remember that rebooking current customers frees your time during the year to focus on getting new ones.

 

3) What do your analytics say?

Are you getting between 10-20% open rates on each event email you send out? If not it could a lack of interest in what you’re doing. What do your website page views look like? If your analytics are on the downswing, it may be a sign it’s time to pull the plug.

 

4) How many financial milestones have you missed?

This is a hard and fast rule for Sean, as noted in the mentioned article. You must be tough on yourself. Once you’ve missed three or more important financial milestones, it’s time to look carefully whether to pull the plug on your event.

 

5) How many attendee milestones have you missed?

What is the ‘tipping point’ in terms of the number of attendees needed to satisfy your sponsors and your financial expectations? If your goal is to get 400 buyers to your event, will you be OK with just 250? If you think you can hit your tipping point number, it may be best to keep on going.

 

6) Can you absorb the financial costs of cancellation?

Is there a large hotel or facility contract that you must swallow if you cancel? Do you have labor or other fixed costs that you can’t recover? Or have you bootstrapped things in a way that allows you to back out gracefully without losing your shirt?

 

7) Can you afford reputationally to cancel or not the event?

Once you cancel an event, it’s quite hard, if not impossible, to resuscitate it. That said, consider your reputation if you run an event with sparse traffic in the exhibit hall and empty seats at the keynote?  You must consider your relationships with key stakeholders if you do or don’t cancel.

 

8) What is the opportunity cost in continuing the event?

Sometimes the best reason to cancel an event is that it frees you to pursue other opportunities or invest more effort on the healthier events in your portfolio. What is the best decision?

 

Canceling an event is something I hope you never have to do. It’s extremely painful and the fallout can last for months, particularly if it’s handled poorly. The best antidote to canceling an event is doing your homework beforehand. Before a new event kicks off, do pre-launch attendee and exhibitor tests and think seriously about the opportunity costs and the upside/downside of moving forward. On an existing event, do the evaluation – financially and otherwise – before deciding to continue.

Let me close with a tip of my hat to those who have cancelled an event for the right reasons: when it saves the time and money of speakers, sponsors, attendees and others who will pay the price if you continue with something that is just going to be bad….

 

For extra credit reading from Lawrence Dvorchik on this subject:

http://dev-eventmech.pantheonsite.io/index.php/2015/07/15/when-to-turn-off-the-lights-what-you-need-to-know-before-canceling-an-event/

and a few from me:

http://dev-eventmech.pantheonsite.io/index.php/2016/10/11/event-wellness-check-weeding-potential-problems-kill/

http://dev-eventmech.pantheonsite.io/index.php/2016/04/15/2-huge-mistakes-will-kill-even-strongest-event/

 


Like It or Not, We’re All Measured on ‘Outcomes’

Given that it’s summer, I’ve had a chance to catch up on some reading.

Most recently, I enjoyed an article by Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst at HFS Research, discussing how we, as ‘doers’ and ‘producers’, are evaluated.

The post speaks for itself, but there may be readers who belong to one of my three event personas who may wonder as to   how they are being measured. I remember there were times in the past that I was unclear as to how I was being evaluated, particularly with regards to non-financial evaluation criteria.

 

Here are Phil’s non-P&L attributes:

  • Which customers have you delighted recently?
  • What new relationships have you made that add value to our business?
  • What work have you done that excited people inside and outside of the business?
  • How are have you helped energize your colleagues, exciting them with new ideas?
  • How have you added value to new business wins?
  • How have you contributed to new initiatives that improve productivity and effectiveness?

 

Here’s the interesting part of these attributes:  it doesn’t really matter which ‘persona’ you are. Regardless of type, you should hold yourself accountable for all of them. And, even if they are not explicitly called out, you should presume that those for whom you work consider them as important outcomes of your efforts.  Whether or not you ‘perform’ could mean the difference between staying where you are (or perhaps being let go) or getting that next promotion.

So, where do you stand?


5 Key Things You Must Have to Reach an Event Attendance Goal

I’ve been involved in a couple of recent projects in which acquiring attendees have been harder than usual. Instead of ruminating about the market conditions or the economy as contributing factors, I thought I might recap the main ingredients in my ‘recipe’ for a plan for hitting an attendance target. Doing so has helped me refocus my efforts, and acted as a benchmark in which to measure my activities.

It might also be of interest for you as well, so here are the things I believe you must have to hit an attendance target:

 

1) An Event Resume: This one pager describes the event in detail, including who should attend and why. The resume should be specific to each event as it’s the cornerstone for the content, marketing and sponsor/attendee sales. I’ve provided an example here.

2) A Budget: It may sound obvious, but you need to be able to ‘peel back the onion’ to know how much money it costs to attract a visitor and/ or a conference attendee and how much revenue they will generate, to confirm that your efforts are worth it. Knowing these details allows you to determine the approximate cost of your marketing for the event.

3) A Marketing Plan which includes:

  1. A branding statement about what the show represents;
  2. Attendee and attendee revenue milestones;
  3. A detailed production plan as to what are you going to do and when.

4) A marketing person who will manage the execution: This resource will have as many of these attributes as possible

5) An ‘engaged’ list: This means that you have some connection with a fair number of people in your database, beyond just having their contact information. Are they loyal to your event? Have you developed target personas? Do you or your marketing person know any attendees/prospects personally where they would take a phone call from you? Most companies have no relationship with their attendees/prospects. This makes their efforts MUCH harder.

 

Many of the above items are obvious. But identifying them and acting on them will tell you whether you have an ‘informed’ perspective – through metrics and relationships with attendees – or whether you are just following a project chart and hitting ‘send’ on millions of emails to attract your audience.

 

Food for thought?

 


11 Qualities Your Event Marketer Must Have 1

As I complete my own event projects and observe others, I often ruminate about what it takes to make a great event marketer. Given the difficulty in getting attendance for events, I find that good event marketers are becoming as rare as good event sales people. And I know this because I am frequently asked for recommendations.

Here’s what I think makes the ultimate event marketer, in no particular order:


1) Great Attitude

A good event marketer has a great attitude, even when things are not going well. This means someone who will ‘fill in the gaps’, i.e. doing things that need to be done without being explicitly asked, and doing so without complaining.


2) Hard Working

Someone who can and will work beyond the 9-to-5 when necessary to get the job done.


3) Fixated on the goal, with the ability to see the current position vis-a-vis that goal

I often see event marketers who are focused on the marketing process, rather than the goal (usually the number of attendees/visitors and/or attendee/visitor revenue). A strong event marketer can also accurately forecast where the numbers are heading and can take new or corrective actions, as necessary.


4) Creative

This is someone who can start a new marketing plan from scratch, or, given an existing plan, can introduce new creative elements to accentuate what has worked before.


5) A “Translator”

One of the new terms I am ‘playing with’ is the concept of a “translator.” This is someone who can make something where nothing previously existed – much like an interpreter can take an incomprehensible sentence from another language and express it in ways you can understand. In terms of event marketing this could include:

  • Pulling together disparate resources that might be incomplete or not functioning properly –such as ‘dirty’ databases, ‘difficult’ websites, or an incomplete social media presence – and getting them to function properly.
  • Convert strategy into tactics – Rarely have I found marketing people who are both strategic and tactical. It’s usually one or the other.  What I mean here is the ability to take the strategy and correctly build a series of ‘micro-actions’ that get the desired results in terms of attendance and attendee revenue.

 

6) Smart enough to know when to change the plan and when to stay the course

This is where event marketing can be transformed from science to art. When a marketer is not hitting the milestones, this means knowing what actions to stop and what to add. Should he/she stay the course, confident that the strategy and tactics will pan out eventually? And what about convincing the boss that the course recommended is the right one?

 

7) Knowledgeable about what technology to try and what to avoid

We all are bombarded by the latest technology solution. How does the marketer know which ones to integrate into the plan and at what point?  They should be well versed in event technology and what can contribute to success.  They are wary of “shiny new toys” whose appeal is only that they are shiny and new.

 

8) Budget-conscious

In addition to being focused on attendee and attendee revenue, our event marketer is aware of – and able to manage to – a marketing budget.

 

9) Understands the target audience, as derived from attendee personas

Our marketer knows the perfect attendee, with ideas about the prospective attendee interests and behavior that can be built into a marketing plan that targets attendee wants and needs. If not, a marketer of the right caliber can develop the data needed to do so.

 

10) Does not give up

This kind of marketer does not surrender when the going gets tough. In those circumstances, they’re ready with – or hard at work developing – a plan B/C/D, etc. This a person you want in your ‘foxhole’.

 

11) Keeps everything on time

The marketing person is like a drummer in a band who keeps the beat – someone who maintains the pace of activities as outlined in the original plan. Does your marketer do this or are you frequently asking for a status on items that you know should be done?

 

In the 20+ years that I have been in the business, I have developed a huge amount of respect for those who perform the marketing function. This is partially because the marketing role (the execution of tactical plans, pulling of lists, designing brochures, setting up websites, etc.) is the only part of the event business that I haven’t done personally. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky to work with and observe some of the best in the business, so I have seen the signs of success and failure in drawing and maintaining an audience.

 

The difference between a marketer who has most of these qualities and one who has only a few can mean the failure or success of your event, so choose (train) wisely.

 

Good luck with your efforts…..

 


How to Increase Quality Event Attendance- Best Practices from the Experts

One of the people I have admired for her ideas as much as her enthusiasm is Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes. A much awarded personality in the industry, I was thrilled to get her input into solving the ‘how do I get more high quality attendees’ problem. In any case here’s what she has to say:

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Marketing is evolving rapidly. New technology is being introduced every day. The competition—direct and indirect—continues to stiffen. Our audiences are becoming savvier, more discriminating and more selective about what they pay attention to than ever before. These days, doing “business as usual” puts you at serious risk of losing attendees, exhibitors, market share and profits. Here are a few tips on strategic planning, branding and campaign development that will help position your event for sustained success.

 

Have a strategic marketing plan.

Without one, the temptation is to simply start thinking about the tactics, timelines and costs in relation to what was done for the previous show. With the evolving media landscape, attendees registering later in the show cycle, and continuous advancements in technology, you’re going to need to shake things up and get refocused on the big picture. Having a written plan will help.

 

Know your competition.

In the past, ‘competition’ meant the other shows that operated in your space. In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, this definition has to broaden to include our indirect competitors—webcasts, online communities, search engines, exhibitors’ proprietary events and more. Ensure you are positioning your event to capitalize on the features and benefits that your audience won’t realize in any other way.

 

Evaluate potential new markets.

Find new markets that represent viable opportunities for growth. List them in your marketing plan and evaluate based on size, growth rate, current penetration and growth potential. Prioritize your viable markets and determine how best to reach them and what targeted messages will appeal to them.

 

Define your event’s brand.

Often, the term ‘brand’ is confused with ‘logo’. Your brand, however, is really just how you want your audiences, including prospective attendees and exhibitors, to perceive your trade show. Compare your brand as you’ve defined it with the actual perceptions of your current and perspective participants. If a gap exists, figure out what you’ll need to do to close it.

 

Identify your Compelling Value Proposition (CVP).

A value proposition is a clear and specific statement about the primary benefit of your event. It’s the single most important promise that you can make to your audience. For attendees, this is what will motivate your prospects to leave their businesses and day-to-day responsibilities and invest time into your event. For exhibitors, this is what will convince them to spend their marketing dollars with you rather than with your competitors or on another marketing medium.

 

Be consistent.

Be consistent over time and throughout your organization. Ensure that your sales, attendee relations, conference and operational teams are all part of the branding process—or at least ensure that the brand strategy is communicated to them. Branding will be most effective when all facets of your show are working in harmony towards the same goals.

 

Execute an on-target marketing campaign.

Let the brand strategy you’ve defined serve as the platform for an effective marketing campaign. Your campaign’s creative theme and messaging should be based on your positioning and CVP, it should consider your marketing objectives and should be created to appeal to the demographics and psychographics of your audience.

 

Craft a campaign that is an appropriate reflection of your event. If your creative materials are boring, uninspired, run of the mill, your audience will logically assume that your event is boring, uninspired, run of the mill. If your campaign doesn’t change from show-to-show, your audience will assume that neither do your offerings. If your marketing looks like every other trade show campaign in your industry, well, you get the picture.

 

Design with your audience’s visual vocabulary in mind. If you took off the logo from your marketing collateral, would your audience still relate to it? Or are you creating “insert trade show name here” marketing? The design elements that you use in your creative should be a graphic language with which your audience can identify. They add visual interest while telling the story of your trade show. Isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?

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As owner and president of the nation’s leading marketing and public relations agency specializing in B2B events, Hardcastle-Geddes and her team provide solutions that increase attendance and exhibitor participation for several of the largest and most successful trade shows and conferences in the country. Kimberly is a CEM faculty member, an IAEE Krakoff Leaders Institute alumna, the editor of mdg’s trade show marketing newsletter, a presenter of industry seminars on strategic market planning and is a recipient of IAEE’s Educator of the Year Award and Trade Show Executive’s Marketing Genius Award.

 


How to Make an Impact with Attendee Acquisition Programs

Not only is Nicole Buraglio an old friend, but she is also the Managing Director of The Collective Group, which is a division of dmg events USA. The Collective Group works with senior marketing executives from Fortune 1000 companies to facilitate specialized private events specifically for CMOs, Heads of Digital Marketing and VPs of Consumer Insights. In her many years of marketing experience, she’s found the magic mix to attract the right attendees. With no further ado, here how she would characterize that success:

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Event marketing has evolved quite substantially over the past 10 to 15 years.  I remember the days of sending my email copy and lists to a third party to distribute (only after asking them to slice and dice my data 10 different ways to ensure I was staying within budget) and asking an outside webmaster to correct a typo on the website.  It never took less than a week or so for all this to transpire, but once the messaging was out, the calls-to-action were successful.  People responded and registered for my events.

How times have changed.  Now, if we haven’t taken care of something yesterday, we get thrashed by someone.  And who’s paying attention to our interruption marketing anyway?  Constant inundation of electronic messaging can make even the most focused person cross-eyed and confused.

So, where do we go from here?  We go back 20+ years – that’s where.  We revert to good, old-fashioned marketing efforts.  Grass roots relationship building.  If you don’t know what I am talking about you’re doing it all wrong.

Building solid connections with your target audience or Relationship Marketing – a blast to the past for some and a complete difference from the norm for most Millennials – is the ultimate strategy from long-term loyalty from customers.  Look at what the major brands are doing – can you even imagine what would happen if someone took away your Amazon Prime?

This can work for events too, but it’s going to be harder than pushing a button to send a blast email.  You’ll need to change your strategy but it will pay off, if you work at it.

How do you start?

Start by developing Brand Ambassadors.  Find attendees who are loyal to your brand and can spread the good word throughout the industry and maintain a close relationship with them.  Invest in them, talk on the phone on a regular basis.  Find meetings you both attend and connect in person.  Create a group they can be part of (more than an Advisory Board) or work with them one on one.  Use their voice through your social channels and make it worth it for them to promote you through face-to-face interactions they have with their peers.  The concept works on the exhibitor/sponsor side too.

Along the same lines, pick up the phone to get ground level intelligence about your market.  When was the last time you called your attendees and asked them how things are going, what they like and dislike about your event or whether they discuss your events afterwards?  The post-show electronic survey doesn’t cut it anymore.  This interaction should be a daily occurrence.  Assign your marketing and conference teams the task of calling 5 to 10 people per day to get feedback.  It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour and makes a world of difference.  The benefit of doing this goes both ways, not only for you, as you gain valuable feedback, but also for them, as people love to know that you value their opinion. This can be an easy first way to develop enhanced attendee loyalty.

There are of course, many other ways of embarking on the project of enhanced attendee acquisition and loyalty.  Pick one and get started or your show may be relegated to the Dark Ages!


Is the Trade Show a Dying Elephant? Only If WE Don’t Become CHALLENGERS – Insight from Lawrence Dvorchik

I met Lawrence Dvorchik around 2006 as his self service event overlapped one of my client’s events and I wanted to see if we could create some synergies by working together. Sadly nothing happened with that, but we remained in loose touch.  As I got to know Lawrence better I realized his was a man of largely impactful ideas, so I was thrilled when he agreed to pen this post for Events Matter!  Enjoy!

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Is the Trade Show a Dying Elephant? Only If WE Don’t Become CHALLENGERS

I find that many of us don’t listen and learn to and from our attendees.  They frequently say about our events: “They are not efficient uses of my time or resources anymore.  They’re really not fun, and quite often, not worth my investment.”  When asked why, they simply stated “There were better face-to-face mechanisms to better engage with meaningful dialogue with colleagues and vendors.”

 
From them, OUR challenge is to learn.  I challenge you to meet the bull head-on, and talk to these people, if you are not already.  Engage with them.  Understand what they like in events, develop programs that are engaging and entertaining, not just educational.  You CAN accomplish all three.  But you must take the challenge to ask, listen, and respond positively to their message.

 
The traditional trade show is not dead, and it never will be, nor is it a dying elephant.  Trade shows are the perfect storm, a gathering of thousands of like-minded colleagues, coming together to educate, network and see a potential partner, supplier or client face-to-face and get to know them better, or even more magically, conduct business with them, right there at YOUR event.

 
There are large, annual, industry events that will never be replaced (or so we all like to think).  These events are the center of an industry, are THE place for everyone to meet, and have survived through the highs and lows, economic booms, bubbles and busts, always coming back out on the other side better than ever.  Face-to-face events remain a valuable and viable part of the ecosystem for any industry and their constituents. But, be warned, traditional trade shows, as a whole, do not hold the magical answer nor the mystique they once did.  While success comes to some, others feel it’s an inefficient system to get face-to-face with prospects with lots of non-qualified people to wade through.

 
However, I am seeing more non-traditional events spring up, having just as much impact on companies, and quite often, taking the budgets from the traditional trade shows.  From meet-ups to hosted buyer events, from “summits” to “speed dating”, marketers and sales executives are seeking the best way to get face-to-face with their prospects.  Good events are always innovating, and are built on the answers to three key, yet simple, questions.

1. What do Attendees Really Want?  An Experience.  They want to feel as though their time out of the office was a worthwhile EXPERIENCE.  They want to learn, network and have fun.  There are many ways for an event organizer to pull this off, but the reality is the attendees can afford to be picky.  They have a lot of options, and those who make the time to understand what their audience REALLY wants, are the ones who will be the leaders in the future.  Understand what makes your audience tick – more than just what they want to learn.

2. What do Sponsors & Exhibitors Really Want?  As obvious as this seems, the sponsors and exhibitors desires have not changed much over the years.  Do they want to show off their bells and whistles?  Sure.  Do they want to look like they are the leaders and the “haves”?  Sure.  But more than anything, they want as much face-to-face time with qualified prospects as is humanly possible in the time permitted, and even more, to follow up and ‘move the needle’ with those prospects post event.  Marketers are able to measure ROI much more accurately than ever, and they must show a return on every dollar spent.

3. How do we deliver this to them?  Now this is where things get interesting.  Because there is no “one-way” to do that.  It’s not a set answer, but rather an ever evolving one, that zigs and zags.  A myriad of formats are being developed by entrepreneurs thinking outside the box, and not taking “because we’ve always done it that way” as an acceptable answer.  The Challengers are here.  The last 10 years have seen the “traditional” trade shows have to respond to the Challengers.  Omni-Channel Approaches.  Community development.  Content Marketing.  Webinars.  Responsive Web Design.  Email Marketing.  Retargeting.  Creating Engaging Experiences.  Traditional trade show companies have had to adapt to these Challengers, and it is not going to stop anytime soon.

 
To steal from Mission: Impossible, “Your mission, should you choose/decide to accept it, is to become a Challenger.”

 
How do you become a Challenger?  Open your mind.  Look inward at your event with a critical eye and ask “Would I want to do that if I was an attendee?”  Ask, “Is this a positive experience for me?  Did you just “process” me, or did you take the opportunity to engage me with an experience I won’t soon forget.

 

Ideas are everywhere.  Become a Challenger.  Become an Experience.

 

Lawrence Dvorchik is the Senior Vice President SVP of Events for AIQ, Inc.’s National Financial Advisor Week.  An entrepreneur his whole life, Lawrence ran an international event sales team for IQPC, a leading global B2B conference company, before developing the 4-time Fastest 50 growing show, KioskCom, which was later acquired by JD Events.  An avid fan of face-to-face engagement and experiences, Lawrence has worked closely with thousands of brand marketers, face-to-face event organizers and agencies to maximize their face-to-face experiences at events from conferences to trade shows, summits to roadshows and more.  He can be reached at ldvorchik@nfaw.com