Exhibitions are considered to be one of the most important parts of the marketing mix and can be invaluable for increasing brand awareness. Within the B2C world, we’ve seen the rise and rise of customer experience design with the likes of Apple and Amazon. This shift in consumer behaviour has accelerated an investment in customer experience design within the events sector. Improving visitor dwell time is a priority for exhibitions and as a result, organisers are becoming more creative with their venue, layout and activities programme.
In 2019 exhibitions have become more about creating memorable interactive experiences rather than manning a traditional exhibition stand.
As suggested by Forbes, the rise of the collaborative economy confirms that Millennials value experiences much more than owning things and that they care deeply about sharable, personalised experiences. Music festivals are a perfect example of everything they love. And this model is moving into the corporate events setting.
We all get excited about attending a festival, whether it’s a food, literature or a music event. So why can’t B2B event organisers generate the same excitement around their events? Why can’t exhibitions be varied and fun? Attitudes are changing, particularly with the rise of corporate wellbeing initiatives as employees gain a greater understanding that happy employees are productive employees.
In response to this, the‘ ‘festivalisation’ of events trend is on the rise. With festivals like Coachella that features a mixture of music, games, science and interactive experiments and well-being activities setting the trend for ‘must be seen’ at events. Consumers are increasingly searching for experiences that reflect their visions, philosophies and values, not just in their leisure time, but in their working day.
The exhibitions that will continue to exist in 10 years will be those that create and nurture human experiences.
And doing so can be highly beneficial as proven by Drapers a media brand for the fashion industry, who became the world’s largest gathering of fashion e-commerce and digital professionals. The team have joked that it was adding the word ‘Festival’ to the event helped achieve a whopping 34 per cent revenue increase.
Highly-shareable moments and contributing to local economies are all things that exhibitions and conferences can adopt in order to create a business ‘festival’ vibe. So, how exactly do you ‘festivalise’ an exhibition?
Mix it Up
Offer a unique experience that people can’t access anywhere else. Include a combination of talks, debates, workshops and live judging sessions, to name but a few. Including an awards dinner or after-party event will create a real community feel and ensure attendees feel connected. Don’t see your exhibition as one event, but a series of discussions, smaller workshops and social activities.
Use a combination of communication styles. Interactive discussions and a unique approach or opinion (including an unexpected industry expert or surprise celebrity guest) will make your exhibitions content a lot more enticing.
Stand out from the Crowd
Delegates are realising that they don't have to do what they don't want to or go where they don’t want to. The number of events held in the UK has increased and is continuing to do so, participants have less time and smaller budgets for attending them. Who wants to experience the same old thing, when there’s so much choice? Think about creating an alternative vibe and ambience to a straight-laced exhibition.
As information is now so readily available you need to deliver key messages and information in an entertaining way. Nowadays, everyone can access all the information in the world via their smartphones, the information you deliver needs to be engaging come alive and surprise. Are you providing an informative experience that’s only possible in the flesh?
In a more relaxed environment, networking comes more easily and people get to know each other more readily. Barriers are broken down and exciting opportunities can arise. As obvious as it seems if attendees feel relaxed and enjoy your exhibition the more likely they’ll be to return, or even better tell everyone how great it is and that they should attend the next one.
What’s in a Name?
You can’t expect that changing the name of your exhibition to ‘something’ festival will be enough to engage your attendees. You and your team really need to think about the message and experiences you would like to deliver and the best (and most creative) way to communicate the content you have.
It all about the attendees
Your exhibition’s focus has to be on your participants. Otherwise, the festival planning process can quickly end up overlooking the target group, leaving you alienated from the public. Your challenge is to create an event that attendees actually want, creating a real sense of community and belonging. Remember, there’s been a recent all-consuming passion for the YOLO (You Only Live Once) attitude. What is your event offering that potential attendees won’t want to miss out on?
Find your voice (and your attendee’s voice)
Have conversations not presentations. Meaningful diversity and a programme of events that speaks to your delegates is key to the success of your event. Even after your conference has closed its doors for the year, it’s important you keep the conversation going in the digital world. Attendee generated content is the epitome of evergreen content because there’s never a bad time to share examples of delegates enjoying themselves and it tends to be something that’s universally understood.
Location, Location, Location
I know we say this a lot, but yes the location you choose will really set the tone and feel of your event. Selecting a venue that has the ‘must see’ element will give your event the edge.
Choosing the right venue is a big decision. You need to ensure your exhibition event venue is both practical and inspiring.
The Build Up
Like all the best festivals, Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, you should be treating the reveal of your line-up as a big deal. Social media is a great way to create some buzz about your announcement, especially if you have a unique hook - ask what and who attendees would like to see at your event.
During music festivals, fans flood their social media feeds with photos, videos and posts highlighting festival fashion, top performances and more. In just the first weekend of Coachella 2015, fans posted more than 3.5 million tweets. More than 1 million tweets were sent during SXSW 2015. A 2014 Eventbrite study found that 75% of the social conversations about music festivals are created by fans in the 17-34 age group. The study also found that 23% of these posts were made by fans who weren’t even at the events but were watching remotely via live streams on YouTube, TV etc. Why not consider live streaming certain parts of your exhibition, you could even turn it into an additional source of revenue?
Are you and your team organising an exhibition? Discover our unique and unusual Exhibition venues here.
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