Experiential Marketing

Innovating for Safety: Returning to Exhibits and Presentations

Stage at the Together Again Expo

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility and innovation. As Covid-19 continues to challenge marketers, we’re talking with our clients about how they can adapt to safely exhibit and sponsor events at meetings and conventions once again.

The reality is that Covid will be with us for some time. And while digital events have been a great pivot for these early months, we’ve heard and experienced a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”

Those were the words used by Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Event Industry Research, at the Together Again Expo in Orlando as she described the consumer sentiment surveys she’s been reviewing.

“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”

Every business is different. Companies must make the call whether to attend and/or exhibit at conventions and meetings. In many cases, those decisions are driven by things like travel restrictions to and from destinations, as well as quarantine requirements upon return home.

But it can be done. And we are excited about the creativity and commitment to safety shown throughout the industry. When it comes to individual exhibits and presentations, the experts on our team are planning to:

Cut Down on Crowds – Reducing capacity within tradeshow booths is vital, and organizations like the Global Biorisk Advisory Council have issued guidelines to help ensure each person can have 6 feet of space around them at all times. At MPG, we’re reviewing current booth layouts and expectations to determine how best to keep visitor count at the “sweet spot” of reaching as many as possible while maintaining social distancing.

Make Traffic One-Way – MPG has always advocated experiences that have a distinct journey, including a well-defined beginning and end guided by friendly ambassadors who keep things flowing smoothly. Traffic control and pulsing is one of our areas of expertise, and we anticipate utilizing it even more in the coming year.

Design for Distancing – Overt and subtle cues help visitors stay in their own zones. Seats in our presentation theaters will be spaced six feet apart. Furniture can be placed strategically to encourage distancing. And touches like drapes, plants and lighting can help create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Go Touchless – At a time when touchscreens, games and other high-touch interactives could help spread disease, live presentations are going to shine. They’re a great way to deliver a complete message and engage your audience safely and succinctly. At the end of the experience, rather than handing out sample bags, consider giving a code visitors can enter digitally to get samples sent to them.

Give Branded Masks and Safety Swag – Our MPG team sees this as an opportunity for our clients to transform their visitors into walking advertisements.

Dividers, Partitions and Shields, Oh My! – In areas where people will be in close contact, we’ll use transparent partitions to provide extra barriers. We also are considering a transparent panel between our presenters and audiences.

Re-imagine Panels and Presentations – Space chairs and podiums six feet apart. Instead of a shared mic, use individual mics or a boom. Participants should wear masks unless they’re speaking. And instead of a large panel, consider pre-recording the conversation on a platform like Zoom, then playing it back live.

Sanitize and Sanitize Again – While each venue should have services and guidelines for disinfecting surfaces and air, plan and stock up for your own cleaning protocols as well. At MPG, we already know we’ll be disinfecting our presentation theaters after every show. It not only reduces germs, it provides an added sense of confidence that we’re taking care of every detail to help keep visitors safe.

For the time being, these are “the new norms of face-to-face engagements.” But with a few modifications, we can still provide a great experience. To discuss how you can create a safer exhibit at your next convention or meeting, contact us.

Together Again: What Re-Opening Live Events Could Look Like

Together Again Expo in Orlando

Last week we did something we haven’t done since February—we attended an in-person convention. It felt wonderful and a bit odd. In the five months since Covid-19 forced the cancelation of live events around the world, we’ve grown used to experiencing them virtually. But screen fatigue has shown us that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, and we’ve eagerly awaited the time when we could all be together again.

It just so happens that Together Again is the name of last week’s expo, organized by a group of intrepid industry pros who wanted to explore and showcase how live events can safely re-open. More than 1000 people gathered at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for a day of sessions and exhibits showcasing everything from state-of-the-art disinfecting to design for social distancing. Masks were mandatory. So were temperature checks. We found it hopeful and enlightening.

Why did we attend? Because, frankly, live events are an essential part of our livelihoods and those of others who provide services, goods and talent tied to tourism and conventions. An estimated 6.7 million jobs have been lost in the events industry this year.

But live events also are important to our clients. While everyone has made the “pivot” to digital (Another 3000 people participated in Together Again Expo’s live stream), we are hearing anecdotally and seeing in real time how virtual events can’t replicate the live experience. In a State of the Industry panel, Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, said in all of the consumer sentiment surveys she’s seeing, brands are reporting that they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, as well as the ability to build awareness and relationships that they were accustomed to at live events.

Time and again during last week’s expo, participants asked the question: Is it too soon? Covid cases are still climbing, so should anyone be gathering for something as big as a convention?

As one panelist put it so eloquently, we are industry leaders, and leaders take risks. Someone has to go first.

Because live events won’t come back all at once, but they will come back. Some parts of the world are already seeing a return. And fighting Covid-19 is a marathon, which means the way we operate will be different for quite a while. We all need to be prepared to usher in the “new normal,” because while we want to get back to gathering and making money, the safety of attendees, exhibitors and staff is the most important consideration of all.

Over and over, this is the message we heard last week: We can do it if we work together.

Our team learned a lot at the Together Again Expo, and it gave us a lot of hope. In the next few days, we’ll be sharing more details and thoughts on safely reopening live events. We also welcome your questions and ideas. If you’d like to chat about how you can safely get together again, then contact us.

Experiential Marketing White Elephants: Turn Challenges Into Gifts With These Tips

Happy holidays from MPG! As the year comes to an end, many of our clients are creating exciting new marketing experiences for 2019. Most projects, however, come with a few white elephants—challenges and line items that no one really enjoys, but everyone has to make the best of.

If that sounds like your next project, check out these tips for transforming some common live marketing white elephants into gifts your audience will love.

Challenge: Old booth or exhibit that generates little traffic

Transformational Tip: Consider adding a live presentation or live demos. Touchscreens and graphics rarely capture or hold attention. But a live person delivering your message creates instant engagement, plus the impression that your space is a “must visit.” Why be static and dull when you can tell a complete story with a personal touch?

Challenge: Highly technical content with lots of jargon

Transformational Tip: Find a theme that allows you to simplify while engaging your audience’s imagination and emotions. If you’re marketing to an audience of subject matter experts, you don’t want to dumb it down. But a layer of storytelling can bring your message to life and make it more memorable.

Challenge: Too much content

Transformational Tip: Spread it out over several mediums. Keeping experiences under five minutes—eight minutes max—keeps people from getting bored. Capture their attention first. Then post content experts nearby, hand out supplemental material, or direct your audience to a website.

Challenge: Too many cooks

Transformational Tip: It’s common to have a lot of stakeholders giving input and approval throughout the creative process. To minimize delays and bottlenecks, create a clear schedule with plenty of time for everyone to weigh in. Then create one point of contact between your internal team and your agencies.

Challenge: Unmotivated team

Transformational Tip: Face-to-face marketing is a specialty. Expecting your sales team to sparkle at a trade show for 8 hours a day may be unrealistic. Professional brand ambassadors, on the other hand, are experts at drawing people in, communicating full messages, and maintaining friendly smiles, even when their feet are killing them.

Do you have a project that could use transforming? Contact us to find out how we can make your message shine.

Trade Show Trends: Our Top Takeaways from CES and ExhibitorLive

Live presentations draw crowds at Trade Shows

When you spend your days crafting concepts that inspire and engage others, you need a little inspiration yourself. That’s why MPG makes CES and ExhibitorLive must-sees at the start of every new year. We go to the consumer technology megashow and the exhibiting industry’s premier expo to experience new technologies and get a feel for the trends and themes that have the potential to resonate with our audiences.

We saw a lot that excited us this year. We also saw things that underwhelmed. And much of it confirmed our core beliefs about what works in the unique face-to-face marketing environment of a trade show.

Here are our top takeaways:

Booths Are Going Next Level

Everywhere we looked we saw multi-story booths. Two and even three levels are almost commonplace, providing intimate places for conversation above the hubbub, or even a bird’s eye view of the show floor. This approach definitely helps solve space challenges, but accessibility can be an issue.

People Don’t Always Think With Their Stomachs

Food and beverage themes have been big for several years, with booths featuring bartenders, chefs and other delectables. But at this year’s Exhibitor show, most of these were sparsely attended unless they provided something active and visually appealing, such as an “artist” rolling toppings into slab ice cream. To stand out, today’s F&B-themed experiences need to be extra-clever and eye-catching.

Live Presentations Draw Crowds

We see it every year. Big booths with lots of touchscreens stand empty, while 10X20s with magicians and other performers are crowded with people. Call them cheesy or hucksterish, but they’re getting something right. Using a professional to deliver messages in an engaging way is a surefire strategy to get people to stop, listen and interact.

Timing Is Everything

For maximum crowd-draw, presentations should happen back to back. We saw one exhibitor with a cool fashion week theme, models in amazing outfits, and an empty red carpet. They were only doing their presentation a few times an hour, which meant… you guessed it, no one in the booth. If you’re going live, then double cast so that your booth is always full.

Immersive trade show booth at CES

Technology Is Still Scaling Up

Virtual reality, touchscreen games, and many other new technologies are still either one-person activities or able to engage just a handful of attendees at once. Balance these out with demos and experiences that engage bigger audiences. You’ll vastly increase the number of people who walk away with your full message.

Immersion Works

Some booths almost made us forget we were at a tradeshow. They plunged us into stories and environments that reminded us how powerful a good theme can be. In sessions at Exhibitor, we heard about how younger audiences want experiences that take them outside of themselves. More and more, we think they’ll be demanding exhibits that are truly unique.

Face to Face is Still Best

People attend trade shows so they can connect with real people and experience brand benefits for themselves. So make sure you’re providing something they can’t get online. One quote from an Exhibitor session stood out: “If what you’re considering can be done better with a website, then come up with something else.”

At MPG, we believe meaningful interaction with real people is the key to trade show success. If you want to ensure your booth is packed and your visitors are fully engaged, then drop us a line. We’d love to chat.