One of my favorite quotes is “if you’re going to do something, do it well or don’t do it at all”. I use this as a guiding principle for every aspect of my life including when I’m creating concepts for my clients and planning for an event they are exhibiting at, sponsoring or producing.
Whether you’re looking to build brand awareness, generate leads, connect with customers or educate prospects, engagement will be the key to your success. Here are five creative ways to encourage attendees to actively engage with your brand while onsite at your next event.
1. Design an Immersive Experience
While I’ve seen MANY wonderfully themed booths, especially at destination focused events, I cannot think of a better example of an ‘outside the box’ immersive experience than Gastro Garage’s booth at The Special Event in 2020. If you’re not familiar with them, they are a creative catering company who deconstruct classic dishes and reconstruct them into “Gastro Tanks”, a SAVORY brioche-style donut that has been blowtorched to create a crust, injected with customized nitrous foam, and then finished with beyond delicious blowtorched toppings. Yum!
When designing their booth, they create an exact replication of their corporate event set up. Visualize your local mechanic, trailers, lots of metal, oil catch trays for the food to sit on. In overalls, boots, welding masks and of course a blowtorch, chefs talk the crowd through the dish they’re creating, and then once “torched” to perfection, the audience gets a taste. It’s authentic, onbrand and delicious - tick, tick and tick.
2. Create an Interactive Step & Repeat
Within the first seven seconds of meeting, people have a solid impression of who you are. If you think that’s scary, just wait for this bomb: Tradeshow attendees decide whether they are going to enter your booth in a lot less time than that. #truth
Some ideas that have worked like a charm are products like Champagne Creative Group’s Interactive Step & Repeat aka ‘The Logo Wall’. Whether you’re handing out wine, dessert or gifts, you’re guaranteed to draw any passerby in - even if it’s just because they’re intrigued.
3. Give them the Spotlight
If your organization publishes any print or digital publications, another great idea is to superimpose attendees onto your cover. Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour had this activation in O Town and now I’ll forever have a copy of O Mag where Oprah and I grace the cover.
If you produce a podcast or vlog, broadcast live from your booth and/or event and invite attendees to be part of your show.
4. A New Twist on an Old Trick: Game Shows!
Sometimes, the resurgence of a classic “an oldie but a goodie” is a perfect fit. While they’re not necessarily considered innovative, Wheel of Fortune, Phone Booth Money Machines, and Live Entertainers like Magicians, made a serious comeback in 2019.
Here’s how to use them effectively:
1. Pull your audience in with raffle tickets
2. Present the information you want them to hear
3. Then do your drawing
It’s super simple but works every single time. If you want to ensure your message sticks, hand out the tickets, present the information, and then host an in-booth quiz. Those who can answer one of your questions get to ‘spin the wheel’ or participate in your activity and win a prize.
5. Codeword Protected or Passport Program
If your sponsorship package includes several opportunities for exposure (e.g. a booth, speaking session, AM or PM break and an ad in the app), why not use them all to engage with attendees and drive traffic back to your booth?
Inspired by the concept of orienteering, I once created a game card that illustrated where attendees had to go to receive clues. Essentially, I forced them to participate in every attendee-facing sponsorship benefit my client received - but don’t tell them that.
Once an attendee had collected all of their clues, they then had to solve a riddle which provided them with a codeword (something about your brand) to claim their prize.
Prizes can range in value from small to large BUT if attendees are having to work for it, it should be something they're going to want.
If you’re working with a small budget, turn the activity into a Passport Program where attendees receive a stamp at each location and submit their completed passport at your booth. This way you’re still driving engagement BUT you only need to provide prizes to X number of people.
Check out ILEA Experience for other great ideas from yours truly and some industry colleagues.