This past weekend I attended the Inaugural Life Is Beautiful Festival in downtown Las Vegas. Taking over 15 urban (city) blocks, more than 30,000 (daily) attended the two-day event that featured five music stages, cool temporary and permanent art installations, culinary luminaries sharing stories and knowledge, many local restaurants with offerings for sale, as well as access to one of the older gaming hotels around—The El Cortez—and not one, but two Ferris wheels.
It was an experiential event done from the attendee perspective. It was easy. It was FUN. Someone (actually a lot of “someones”) really thought out about all of the details. All of them.
The first day, I attended with three other tradeshow friends. As anyone in our biz knows, it’s next to impossible to go to any kind of an event and not look at it logistically. No? Think about the last time you went to a concert, food fest or carnival with your kids.
Our only challenge was that one of the RFID wristbands didn’t work. It was an easy fix—we simply stepped over to the box office, where they scanned the RFID tag, asked for an ID and replaced the bad wristband. Most importantly, they thanked us for being “so patient.” The whole process took under 2 minutes.
Lesson: Make sure that you have nice people in place to deal with attendee entrance problems. It’s surprising how many show organizers fail at this. Also, don’t forget to thank people for their cooperation and/or patience!
Once in (very quick process through security who were polite while searching bags–yet another lesson some organizers should learn), we found people handing out festival pins to everyone along with maps. Yes, there was an app, but on a 1-10 scale, I’d rate it at a five. Then again, that’s how I rate most show apps, so no difference there.
Lesson: Cheap giveaways work, and when done right, help brand your show long after it takes place.
Fifteen city blocks is a lot of space to navigate, especially with so many different areas to explore. LIB had human directional signs. Easy to see in white branded t-shirts, they held simple tall signs with a question mark in a circle. You could spot them from yards away! There were also easy to read kiosks with maps, but who actually reads at an event?
Lesson: Make it easy for people to navigate your show – and make it personal. Human interaction is KEY for face-to-face. Yes, having a kiosk for attendees to look up a product is fine – but having happy, smiling faces ready to assist gives a completely different experience.
Food, drinks, ATMs and bathrooms were plentiful. The longest we waited in line was 2 minutes. Ever. Food selection was crazy (in a good way). Bathrooms were clean–especially for port-o-potties (or port-o-lets as friends from New Orleans call them). Extra points for picnic tables near most food areas, and plenty of trash and recycling cans to dispose of waste.
Lesson: How happy are all of us when we can quickly get food, beverages, cash or use a clean restroom? Make sure your venue is providing all of the above.
Sponsorships: I liked the interactive way sponsorships were done.
Samsung was incredibly clever. Stuck at the end of the universe near the main concert stage, they made the experience fun. First, you could get a free t-shirt (with both the sponsor and event logos) and pick from one of five designs–all you had to do was tweet out a saying with a hashtag and show it to a Samsung worker: Boom. Free shirt!
Second, they were giving away free frozen yogurt with various toppings. All you had to do was walk over to a Samsung tablet station and tweet in your order. What a great way to: 1) get people to sample their electronic products and 2) amplify the event on Twitter. Plus the yogurt rocked! Extra points awarded for the free charging stations that also handled iPhones.
The D Hotel & Casino (a new Las Vegas downtown property) sponsored an interactive art area at one of the music stages in a motel parking lot. Attendees were invited to paint tiles that will be incorporated into the downtown area, use a paintball gun to help paint canvases (if you scored correctly, you got a free t-shirt), or spin a wheel to win D prizes such as room, food, beverage discounts and gambling awards. And yes, you could also play some blackjack.
Extra points for having free remote controlled boat races in the pool and a wedding chapel complete with a midget minister (Hey, it IS Vegas after all!).
Lesson: Make sponsorships engaging and interactive. Out of new ideas? Ask your potential sponsors what they want to do!
I could go on and on (i.e.: The El Cortez Hotel having the “Rat Pack plus Marilyn” play in the middle of the casino for those who wanted to take a break in air conditioning), but won’t.
Suffice it to say that the four expo pros couldn’t find fault anywhere–instead, we were seriously impressed. As an attendee, can you say the same about your own events? If not, why not?
Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter at @stephselesnick.