At Hargrove, we understand you’re handling more with less and under pressure to produce results from your exhibit program. So, whether you’re planning your 1st trade show or 100th, our team is ready to help. Get started today on planning a successful show!
Order furniture, carpet and labor using our Online Exhibitor Ordering System. It’s easy-to-use and provides you instant access to your orders from anywhere.
Everything you need to know in one place—the Exhibitor Service Kit. It includes key show information, order forms, instructions and key dates.
Want to Bring the “Wow” to Your Next Booth? We have exhibit solutions for any budget, with a service team committed to your success.
Ready for a Smart Shipping Solution? Dependable shipping services save budget dollars and streamline your workload.
We’ve compiled our teams’ thoughts and ideas to help you plan your next trade show, event, or exhibit. So, whether you need advice on developing your next RFP, ensuring you do all you can to maximize your budget or can’t remember the meaning of an industry term, we hope you find our set of how-tos helpful.
Ben Erwin, President and CEO of our parent company PSAV/Encore, provides his perspective on the current state of the events industry due to COVID-19, the impact to the business, the strategic adjustments we have taken, and his vision for the future as our new CEO.
In the past six months, our world has been flipped upside down. Almost every industry in the world has been affected by the global pandemic, with very few impacted more than the live events industry. While we all know what goes on behind the scenes to bring conferences, meetings, brand activations, and all other special events to life, sometimes it can feel like ours has been the forgotten industry.
Don’t just plan an event . . . DESIGN an experience! Event producers are being told, “You’re an experience designer.” But what does that actually mean? – especially when it feels like the world turned virtual overnight (even though virtual and hybrid events have been around for years – for more perspective read our recent post).
The good news is whether you are designing conventional events or virtual events, meaningful content and design is the key to making strategic choices that resonate with your audience, brand and mission.
So how do you do that? It starts by reviewing our 3 simple tips to start thinking differently about your event design-experience.
Unconventional: Because different can delight and engage in unexpected ways.
Tip 1: Shake up your space. Breakouts, learning sessions, networking, online environments – they don’t all have to look the same. Your audience (even in virtual) needs a change of scenery. Create immersive moments of escape and play within the architecture. Polling, gamification, word clouds, social engagement are great ways to do this inside your virtual event OR create smaller chat rooms for networking that combat screen fatigue by allowing attendees to shift focus, move their mind and engage across the event.
Tip 2: Let’s get weird! Ask yourself, how can you give an unexpected experience? We recommend combining virtual and physical elements in all your events. For example, virtual attendees receiving a pre-event package with content they can use during the event to get some pre-buzz energy flowing OR maybe the audience members have the option of designing their very own event avatar to show off during the event. Whatever the solution, it starts by asking how are you planning to give your audiences “you had to be there” moments that they can’t get from anyone else?
Tip 3: Get emotional. You don’t need to deliver complex content in order to create a memorable feeling. Simple statements stick with people when they are accompanied by a feeling. “Design is not just how it looks and feels, but how it works” – Steve Jobs. Allow your brand to show up authentically, and attendees to express themselves, their passion in what they do and how you can affect that, positively. Acknowledge that, we all want to feel good – question what that means for your audience and celebrate it in the moments that they are convening. Unexpected methods of content delivery – voices from your subject matter experts; your partners; your customers; your attendees. Ideas such as creating curated partnership stories featured as a gallery or give speaking opportunities to more junior members of your organizations to get to the heart of the why you are connecting. If budgets are an issue, production value can be forgiven if the content is striking the right chord for your community. Try something new and go for it! Authentic voices build connection and that’s exactly what you are trying to do!
Design of visitor experiences is considered central to the delivery of any successful event. This places Marketers (YOU) in a new role – driving the design decisions and processes forward. Creating a differentiated experience is what will elevate engagement, drive community and deliver the desired actions of others.
So, how will you stand out in future events?
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to the event industry. But, with crisis, often comes innovation. As automobile manufacturers have quickly changed their business model from building cars to building ventilators, the events industry is responding with different ways to use technology to connect organizations and people.
One of the impacts of the pandemic is that people everywhere have become more comfortable with virtual technology. Our children and teachers have adapted from classroom instruction to online learning. Our colleagues kept collaboration and teamwork alive using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx and a host of other applications. While the Millennial generation has grown up with FaceTime and video chat, now even my 76-year-old mother has become proficient at setting up family Zoom meetings. These new realities are propelling the use of virtual technologies forward.
You may recall after 9/11 and the Great Recession when planners, venues and technology companies expected video conferencing to become a part of the new norm and invested significant capital in that direction. We learned quickly that the industry at large was not ready to make the move to this type of virtual approach. But today is a new era. People’s behaviors have changed, and their everyday routines now revolve around technology. Great advances have been made over the past decade in technology, hardware, connection speeds and the use of the Cloud to enable virtual events. Most importantly, meeting and event participants are now more comfortable using technology to connect virtually. COVID-19 has prepared us for a technological pivot in the meeting industry.
However, we must never underestimate the importance of human connection. The ability to read body language and meet face-to-face is important. The opportunity to socialize before and after meetings is crucial. Technology can never fully replace face-to-face communication, but it can become a tool to help us through challenging times, and the answer might just be a combination of in-person meetings connected by technology.
Humans, whether Millennials or Baby Boomers, are social people. We must meet, in-person and often to create true connections.
Hybrid meetings allow us to connect event participants while simultaneously providing peace of mind. More than ever, attendee engagement strategies need to be front and center as we transition from live events to virtual and hybrid events in the post-COVID-19 world. In order to create successful events, creators need to be focused on designing touchpoints that resonate, developing timing strategies and engineering experiences that allow for two-way conversations.
In-person meetings will evolve to become more inclusive. While just a few months ago, a venue may have welcomed 500 people into a ballroom for a general session, the opportunity now exists to welcome 50 people into a more intimate setting in 10 rooms that can be spread out around the world. Connecting rooms or venues with virtual technology will allow this to happen. It will also allow options for participants who may be concerned about their health or have a pre-existing condition.
Additionally, as small, mid-sized and even large companies have become accustomed to employees working from home, our role in connecting people will be even more important. Square, Twitter, and Nationwide are a sample of some of the organizations who plan to continue to offer remote working arrangements. This will present a new opportunity for venues to sell space so that team members of companies who have left the brick and mortar office behind can come together to meet. Working from home can be isolating and the need for team members to create face-to-face connections will increase.
This has created a tremendous opportunity for planners, venues, and technology companies to work together to meet these needs. It is our job to educate the industry about the possibilities of coupling in-person meetings with virtual technology to create hybrid events. Our role in connecting people is suddenly more important than ever. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that even though we can work virtually we crave social interaction. Our job is working together to make that happen for our clients.
By Mike Stengel