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Engagement Analytics Part 2

Show-to-Show: Thoughts from the Show Floor by James Morris

As I fly home from a three-week whirlwind of events and shows, I am focused on the question of “What Now?”.   As I mentioned in part one, ROE is a result of true and measurable data collection; something that has long been asked for but severely lacking in the event world. 

I heard from several folks on the last day of the show say, “Thank goodness it is over.  All of the hard work, for just three days.”  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Yes, there is a tremendous amount of work that leads up to a trade show or event. However, as the show gets closer that work is primarily a matter of checking items from a list.  When the show hall goes dark, there is a lot more work to be done. I have identified three strategies that can keep your trade show or event moving far past the close of the show.  Not surprisingly, they all involve digital efforts.

The first step assumes e-literature was sent at the show.  Sadly, I know this is not the case for many exhibitors.  As much as I push folks for answers on why they still bring hard copies of literature, I have yet to receive a satisfying answer.  For example, let’s take HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), one of the largest health care shows each year.  I found myself walking the show floor to take in new, fun exhibits and staff behaviors.  I was shocked to see how many exhibitors still had paper literature in their booth space.  As I do in those situations, I quickly shuffled to the nearest trash can…guess what was overloading the receptacle?  E-literature not only provides a better delivery method (and is better for the environment), it also provides the opportunity for useful data and analytics.  Given the right platform, e-lit allows the sender to watch and recognize the origin of some inbound marketing efforts. 

The second way to help to extend the show past the trade show date is the “giveaway.”  Having most recently come off of the Enterprise Connect show floor, I am stunned at the amount of “stuff” that is given to anyone with a bag. (As it relates to trade shows, I like to refer to this attendee as a “trick-or-treater” -  you know them -  they walk the show floor with a hand out and a bag open, hoping to bring home gifts for the whole family.) I have tremendous respect for the Enterprise Connect show and its Show Management company, UBM.  The audience is well qualified and most attendees have some input in the decision making process.  The show shoots for quality over quantity; something I greatly appreciate.  That’s what makes it so surprising to see the massive giveaways and “entertainment.”  I have two hard and fast rules about each.  First, giveaways should only be “given away” after the show.  Make the “get” memorable; so memorable that it takes a salesperson to deliver the item in person after the show has ended.  For the amount of money one spends on hundreds of light-up bouncy balls, you can offer 10 items of worth than can be delivered after the show.  This not only creates a personal touch-point, it shows value and worth.  My rule about entertainment is simple; forget it.  Let me be clear. Education at an event is critical.  There is a significant difference between a “learning engagement” versus “entertainment”.  Simply put - the educational engagement can be entertaining but the entertainment is not educational.  The only folks that stick around to watch a magician make cards appear are folks that enjoy magic. 

Thirdly, digital media creates the pebble effect to extend your efforts.  For example, I recently worked with a partner who helped to establish a nurturing campaign that started three months before the event started and lasted until the following year’s show.  The initial awareness campaign had a CTA increase goal of 50%.  By adding a landing page to their current web page and ultimately routing to a PURL, they were able to collect information and identify the attendees they were most interested in speaking with at the show.  Furthermore, the simple, but effective, effort resulted in an increase of >200% unique clicks and more than 300% overall asset requests.  The nurturing campaign lasted well beyond the show and data was still being collected before the launch of the next platform a full year later. 

Whenever I mention to someone that I am in the trade show and event industry, their initial reaction is to vent about increasing costs and ROE.  I get it.  Trade shows and events are expensive.  They require a tremendous amount of effort and many, many hours of planning.  I understand the need to exhale after the event is “over,” however, I know well the potential for overwhelming results if you plan and extend your efforts long after the show has closed.