Making the Most of Experts at Events

Make the Most of Experts at EventsOne big benefit of face-to-face events is the opportunity to have experts and scientists interact with industry thought leaders. Not only does this bring credibility to your message, it makes guests feel like VIPS with exclusive access to your company’s best and brightest.

In a recent post, we discussed how you can leverage experts on video if they aren’t able to appear at your event in person. If budgets and schedules do allow you to feature a live expert, then follow these tips to make the most of the experience.

Choose someone who enjoys the spotlight. Brilliant in the lab doesn’t always translate to brilliance in front of an audience. If possible, select someone who speaks well, succinctly, and with confidence. (In our earlier post, we suggested keeping a working list of professionals within your company who are good public speakers.) If your star scientist isn’t a people person and doesn’t mind handing off the microphone, consider sending his or her second-in-command.

Make the most of their time. When travel budgets are tight, you can make a better case for an on-site expert by having them appear at various venues and in a variety of capacities. Schedule them for seminars, evening meet-and-greets, and Q&A’s at the booth if you’re attending a trade show. Are they social media savvy? Have them Tweet, Facebook and Instagram from and about the event.

But don’t overwhelm them. Event professionals like trade show presenters and hosts are used to interacting with the public for hours on end with few breaks. Your experts probably will not be able or willing to do this, nor will it make a great impression if your spokesperson is exhausted. Trade show activities should not be built around live experts. Rather, they should have areas and times when experts can slip into the experience and enhance it. For example, schedule 3 to 4 appearances throughout the day, then advertise them and feature a few complimentary activities to make those times extra-special.

Prepare your experts well. Of course your expert knows his or her material, but try to review it before the event to make sure the content is presented in a way that’s engaging. Help your expert create visuals that really sing and, if possible, have him or her practice with you. If you’re expecting media coverage, brief your expert on questions that are likely to be asked, as well as how to handle any sensitive subjects that might come up. You want the expert’s contribution to be part of one cohesive message, so make sure he or she understands the overall goals of your event.

Let them know they’re not alone. Treat your experts like VIPs by assigning a point person to help manage their schedules and make sure they’re taken care of. You want the experience to be positive, not just so that your experts can put their best foot forward, but so that they’ll want to help out the next time an event calls for the kind of content and credibility that only a true company insider can provide.

Capture Gold at Your Next Event by Tapping into the Power of Emotion

The Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, and, like the rest of the world, we are watching in amazement! Not only are we Wow’d by the athletes’ skill and amazing stunts, we also are moved by their inspiring personal stories.

Events like the Olympics wouldn’t be what they are without a healthy dose of emotion. Sponsor brands like Procter & Gamble know this, and they’ve tugged our heartstrings many times with their sniffle-inducing “Thank You, Mom” ads.

It’s a perfect example of the power of emotional connections, and it’s something we look for in every project. Emotional ties are abundant in sports. But you can create an emotional connection even if your company or product involves something a little (or a lot) less moving. We’ve done it for clients ranging from oral health product makers to software developers and builders of construction equipment. Here are a few tips.

Tap into the why. What does your audience enjoy about their profession? Why did they become a dentist or an accountant or a dermatologist? Are they making a difference in peoples’ lives, even if it might not be readily obvious? What are they passionate about? What makes them feel they’ve done a great job?

Make them heroes. How can your product or service help your audience succeed in their mission—and not just succeed, but really make an impact? Can you follow the ripples to show how their contribution becomes part of a bigger, more impressive and moving result? How can you help them solve the problems of their patients, their clients or their companies? In what ways can they touch and improve peoples’ lives?

Tell a tale. Instead of relating a bunch of dry facts, wrap your message in a story. Case studies featuring real people are great. Or, create a composite story to illustrate an ideal outcome. Pretend you’re writing a children’s book. Can you use metaphors or fun examples to bring the experience to life?

Engage all of their feels. Remember, there are a ton of other emotions besides those that make us reach for our hankies. People love to laugh. They’re moved to action by fear or the desire to best a competitor. They enjoy being surprised and delighted. Use humor. Inject an element of competition. Show what could happen without your solution, and don’t be afraid to get dramatic.

How do you know you’re effectively engaging your audience’s emotions? If you’re at a live event, it will show on their faces. Are expressions blank? Then you’re not reaching them. Look for empathy, laughter, looks of determination and nods of understanding. And always keep your eye on the prize: if people walk away remembering how you made them feel, chances are good they also will remember you.

Happy Holidays from MPG!

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Booth Envy – Is It Time for a New Tradeshow Exhibit?

MPG and IGE Group created this stunning new booth to replace an older property for P&G's Home Away from Home at the BlogHer convention.

MPG and IGE created this stunning new booth to replace an older property for P&G’s Home Away from Home at BlogHer.

If you’ve been exhibiting at trade shows for any length of time, then you know the feeling: There, across the show floor, is a gorgeous new booth. Its elegant design, engaging presentations and drool-worthy technology make your exhibit look shabby and outdated in comparison.

At least, that’s how it feels to you. With a few updates, your current trade show booth might have some life left in it. Or, your hunch that it’s time to build something new could be correct. Here are 5 ways to tell.

1.       You’ve outgrown your current booth.

Perhaps your business has expanded, giving you more products or brands to showcase. Or maybe attendance has boomed at the trade shows where you exhibit. If space makes it impossible for you to accomplish what you need and want to do, or if your booth is so crowded that it creates a less-than-stellar guest experience, then consider getting something new. While bigger is better, it’s still a good idea to have your designer create a modular strategy so you can scale down at smaller shows.

2.       The wear and tear is impossible to hide.

Every trade show exhibit will eventually show its age. And occasionally, as with one of our clients whose booth was damaged in Super Storm Sandy, stuff happens that’s beyond your control. If you’re no longer able to cover the scratches and scuffs, it’s time to put that old exhibit out to pasture.

3.       Your current booth is too expensive to ship and assemble.

Trade show displays made of older, heavier materials can be more costly to ship and put together. If you exhibit at a lot of shows, it might be worth making the up-front investment in something that will be lighter and easier to haul around. Sometimes, the money to design and build a new booth can be taken from a budget separate from the one that covers the expenses of individual shows.

4.       You’re being outpaced by your competitors.

Everyone needs to put their best foot forward at a trade show, and for some brands and companies, it’s vital to look like a leader. The size of your booth, the quality of the design, the general impression it makes on the show floor speak volumes to attendees before they ever set foot in your space. If you really do appear smaller and shabbier than the competition, it might be time to step up your game and leave them with booth envy.

5.       You need more flexibility.

Your trade show exhibit was created around a certain set of activities, but now you want to shake things up and try something new. If your current design makes this all but impossible, then look into something that gives you more options. A good designer can help craft a space that allows you to evolve year after year.

Want to see what one of our clients did to combat booth envy? Check out what MPG and IGE did for Crest + Oral-B.

The new Crest + Oral-B Experience debuted at the American Dental Association convention in New Orleans, and it’s getting rave reviews!

What We’ve Learned from 10+1 Years of Growth and Success

Unisys

Ten years ago, our presentations often included song and dance numbers, like this one.

November 2013 marks a special milestone for MPG. We’re celebrating 10+1 years of being in business!

“But wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Eleven years isn’t a big anniversary. What happened to celebrating #10?”

The truth is, we were so busy that we let our tenth slip by without fanfare. Now, as we head toward Lucky 11, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how much MPG and the experiential marketing industry have changed.

It’s not the same old song and dance. Years ago, we routinely created flashy numbers and other theatrical tricks to sell everything from fire equipment to home security systems. These days, clients still expect an unforgettable experience to communicate their messages, but substance is every bit as important as style. Today, our presentations are more science-based, often with demos that bring tough concepts to life. We’re ready and able to bring out the singers and dancers, but we’re also equipped to talk hard science with the most discerning audience member.

AAD presentation

These days, our presentations are much more science-based, incorporating a broader spectrum of technology and presentation techniques within lighter, more environmentally friendly properties.

Properties are lighter and more sustainable. Companies want to reduce costs. They also want to be kinder to the environment. So they’re requesting booths made of materials that are easier and less expensive to ship and assemble—properties that can be put to multiple uses, that, if possible, are created from recycled goods, and that require less fuel to move from one place to the other.

Technology has boomed. This is no surprise to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock. The tools at our disposal to wow audiences and help our clients build relationships are simply amazing—and they seem to be evolving by the minute. Through it all, we’ve challenged ourselves and our clients to remember that “whiz bang” for “whiz bang’s” sake isn’t a winning strategy. Technology only makes an impact if it connects and communicates in a meaningful way. And technology is still no substitute for the face-to-face interactions that happen at live events.

Travel is tougher. We definitely are not immune to the challenges posed by fewer flights and higher prices. We’ve gotten very good at teleconferencing and reducing costs in other ways. But when our team needs to get to a show, we have to get creative so that travel costs don’t eat up the budget.

Giveaways are no longer throwaways. Trade show attendees used to be happy with a tee-shirt or a pin. These days they want something they can use, something that helps them connect with a company or brand in a meaningful way. Samples are more sought-after than ever—the bigger the better. Attendees also appreciate clever gifts that help keep our clients top-of-mind.

Timelines are tighter. Yesterday’s deadlines now feel leisurely thanks to technological advances, shrinking budgets, and a culture that demands quick thinking, fast response, and ultra-efficiency. Our clients are under pressure to deliver more, faster, which means we’ve grown accustomed to doing great work in record time.

Despite the challenges of a growing industry, some things remain the same for our team at MPG. We’re just as passionate about our work as we were when we started this company. We still have a great time together. And we’re still 100% committed to bringing our clients creative solutions that make their messages unforgettable while forging lasting connections. We’ve been honored to work with amazing companies and partners. Thank you for helping make the last 10+1 years so great.

Follow These ABCs for Awesome Expert Videos at Events

Expert Videos, Interactive Presentations, Trade Show Presentations

MPG Presenter Chris Hurt interacts with a P&G researcher during a live trade show presentation.

A great way to connect with your audience is to let them connect with your experts. At MPG, we often look for ways to feature our clients’ researchers, scientists and specialists on video at trade shows and other events.

Expert videos bring credibility to a brand. They help tell your unique story, and they allow your audience a glimpse behind-the-scenes. They also save travel costs.

But featuring your best and brightest isn’t always easy. Unless they have a side career in show business, scientists and other experts do their best work in the lab or with intimate teams. They might not be accustomed to the spotlight. Even if they’re a superstar in big presentations, they might not be a natural in front of a camera.

That’s why it’s important to identify and nurture your best talent. If you’re thinking of featuring an internal expert at your next event, follow these ABCs.

Assess who’s really interested. If your star scientist has severe stage fright, move on to someone else. The camera—and your audience—will be able to tell if they’d rather be having a root canal. Look instead for people who are naturally outgoing and genuinely want to help. A great way to see who might do well on-camera is to have them read a short script and capture the footage with your phone.

Be sure what they’ll say. It may seem like a good idea to just ask a few questions, then let the person talk while the camera rolls, but people rarely speak in complete, video-friendly bytes. Plus they often get bogged down in details when talking about their areas of expertise. Have your agency or staff writer craft a script, then run it past your on-camera expert for approval.

Coach Them. Speaking naturally on-camera isn’t easy! A good agency and director can work with your expert to help them appear more at-ease and deliver their lines more naturally. Prepare your expert for the idea of having their hair, makeup and wardrobe done, and let them know they’ll be doing several takes. Emphasize that it’s all to help them look their best.

Don’t Stop Looking for Potential Talent. As new people come on-board, try to get a feel for how they might do on camera. You’ll never regret building a pool of go-to experts. And keep an open mind—some of the best talent we’ve worked with are people we initially weren’t sure could do the job. Some folks truly blossom under the spotlight.

For an example of how we made one of Crest and Oral-B’s star scientists look his best, check out our post on the Crest Pro-Health [HD] launch.

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Event Scripts: Less is More!

Image courtesy of jomphong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jomphong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can you guess one of our biggest challenges as an experiential marketing firm? Is it budgeting? Logistics? Making sure hundreds of people have a wonderful, memorable time?

You might be surprised that one of our most challenging tasks often is editing! As in, making sure scripts for events and experiences are short—but meaty—enough to hold peoples’ attention and get them excited about our clients’ messages.

Right now we’re crafting scripts for several projects, and with each one we’re reminded how important it is to keep things short and sweet. Optimal running time for main presentations at trade shows is 7-8 minutes. Demos should run no longer than about 5 minutes. For a breakfast event with several speakers and entertainers, we made some tough cuts to bring the time in under 50 minutes.

It’s a real art getting all of our clients’ science, claims and product benefits into an experience that’s compelling and compact. We want audiences to walk away wanting more, so they’ll be more likely to engage with our clients face-to-face. That’s where real relationships are built.

And that’s why it’s important to have a skilled writer on your team. Even then, never be satisfied with a first draft. Read scripts aloud, preferably with the talent who’ll be delivering them. Listen for spots where your attention starts to wane. Look for ways to get the same thought across with fewer, snappier words. It’s better to make 2 points memorably than to make 10 and leave the audience numb.

And since this post is about brevity, we’ll cut it off here. Do you have any stories about a particularly challenging event script edit? Tell us about it!

The Care & Feeding of Brand Characters at Conventions

???????????????????????????????The walkaround brand character is a tried and true crowd pleaser. Costume characters are always a hit at theme parks and other events, so why wouldn’t the same be true for conventions?

It is true, as we found with a recent client who asked to feature a couple of brand characters at dental conventions. It was a great way to engage people as they waited in line for our main theater presentation, and it gave our client additional exposure as the characters walked the trade show floor.

Our MPG team wasn’t surprised—we have extensive theme park experience and, thus, a lot of knowledge on the care and feeding of costume characters. If you’re considering using them at your next convention, here are some dos and don’ts.

DO: Invest in Quality Construction – Your character’s costume will take a lot of wear and tear, so make sure it’s well-made and durable. Have extra shoes/”feet” created, since these tend to get scuffed and damaged easily. Never underestimate the stress a costume will go through—you may even want to purchase a couple of back-ups.

DON’T: Leave Your Character Unattended – It’s hard to see in front of you when you’re wearing a character costume, let alone use peripheral vision. A costume character should be escorted at all times, for everyone’s safety. Even if your character isn’t in a full head mask, he or she needs protection from kids and even adults who might think it’s funny to mess with them. The escort can do some gentle scolding while your actor stays in character.

DO: Know the Boundaries – Each convention has its own rules about where your costume character can roam. Find out in advance whether he or she must stay within your booth footprint, and consider purchasing some extra space, separate from the booth, where the brand character can “live.” If your character is allowed in public areas, make sure they’re part of his or her regular route.

DON’T: Kill the Illusion – Working as a costume character is physically demanding, and your actor will need to rest for about 10 minutes every hour, in addition to lunch breaks. Make sure you provide a place where he or she can take off the head and sit that is out of the public eye. Plan for this in your budget, and make sure your actor is never seen in partial costume.

DO: Be Social – Since people are already taking photos of your brand character, let them know how they can tag you on Facebook and other social media.  Your character’s escort can hand out small cards with the information. Likewise, post your own photos of your character interacting with crowds—make the most of it!

Exhibitors: Avoid These 5 Common Trade Show Mistakes

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A new trade show exhibit can be a huge investment. The last thing you want is an oversight that could create a less-than-WOW experience for your guests, or stand in the way of ROI.

We’ve seen a lot of successes when it comes to trade show experience design. We’ve also navigated our share of challenges. If you’re considering a new trade show exhibit, then plan to avoid these 5 common mistakes.

1. Not reserving enough space — Sometimes you need to lock in booth space before you have a firm exhibit design and strategy. And space can be a tempting area for cost-cutting. But we have worked too many shows where the booth felt cramped and our clients weren’t able to execute new activities as well as they’d like, simply due to lack of space. And trade shows often have strict rules about experiences spilling into the aisles. When in doubt, go bigger. That extra 10 feet will pay you back in flexibility and a better guest experience.

2. Unclear agency brief — The brief is our Bible, so give it extra attention. Provide clear objectives and criteria for success. Lay out messaging musts. Clearly delineate the roles of any partner agencies. Let us know what assets exist and who’s responsible for providing them. Don’t be afraid to ask your agency for help with the brief. A good brief is vital to creating an outstanding, on-equity experience with maximum efficiency.

3. Not staffing with your A-team — A beautiful trade show booth is just a hollow shell if the people inside it stand like lumps, waiting for attendees to come to them. Even if you’ve hired a company like Moening Presentation Group to craft an amazing experience using professional talent, it all falls flat if your company reps aren’t ready to step up, engage, and close the deal. Trade shows require a special kind of personality and stamina, so be choosy with your internal staff. Or follow the lead of some of our biggest clients and hire professional sales hosts.

4. Not following up on leads — We see this too often: An outstanding experience brings tons of qualified leads to the booth, then those leads languish on a spreadsheet, in someone’s email, or—worse—in a booth crate. Building and creating new relationships is a trade show exhibit’s raison d’etre, so keep up the momentum and reach out to visitors who’ve shown they’re open to hearing from you. Good lead-management programs can help. Or simply assign someone to filter and distribute leads after each show. Then, make sure your team is committed to the all-important follow-through!

5. Not documenting the experience — A video recap is a must-have in your measurement arsenal. It’s all about capturing the excitement for leadership and other stakeholders who couldn’t attend the trade show. Showcase all major aspects of the booth experience, and be sure to interview attendees for raves. Weave in the results you’ve measured to demonstrate ROI, and you’ve got a powerful sales tool that can help ensure your trade show marketing program continues.

MPG followers, what are some common trade show mistakes you’ve encountered?

Event Trends for 2013: The Year of “More”

2013As 2012 comes to a close, we’ve enjoyed a ton of articles and blog posts predicting 2013 event trends. Based on what we’re hearing from clients and seeing from colleagues, Team MPG is calling 2013 the year of “more.”

We predict events will be…

…More Connected – Technology continues to bring us all closer, making events just one touch point in an ongoing conversation. We predict we’ll see live events, mobile, digital and other mediums converging in even more innovative ways to help people forge more meaningful connections.

…More Intimate—Big events will always have their place, but we’re seeing bigger demand for smaller gatherings.  Companies want customers, consumers and influencers to feel more personally connected and invested, so they’re creating events that feel less like crowd blasts and more like one-on-one conversations.

…More Targeted – Greater intimacy is possible thanks to our ability to better identify, reach and talk directly to niches of people.  Data can now tell us, in great detail, who our targets are, as well as their specific needs, interests, and communication styles. This allows companies—and event planners and producers like MPG—to create experiences that are tailor-made for specific  audiences.

More Emotional—The more we learn about audiences, the more we find that they still want to be engaged emotionally. Storytelling—finding that moment of truth that touches hearts and opens minds—is more important than ever.  And knowing audiences better means we’re better able to tell just the right stories to reach them, touch them, and move them to action.

We’re excited to see what the coming year holds for all of us. What do you see as major event trends for 2013?

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