Friend and fellow ExpoWeb blogger Kai Hattendorf, vice president of communications, marketing and digital business at Messe Frankfurt, recently described exhibitions (in a blog for Exhibition World) as “the campfires of their entire sector." The phrase resonated with me in a big way and should with you as well.
Think about it: A tradeshow is a gathering of likeminded individuals to commune, hang out, learn and do business. While we aren’t literally singing campfire songs (karaoke bars don’t count), we are sharing ghost stories (or war stories), toasting marshmallows (OK, eating rubber chicken, but still) and enjoying fellowship (and making deals).
In this area of digital connectivity, face-to-face engagement needs to be more than it was in the past. Our attendees crave it! Providing white space in our events—a time for attendees and exhibitors to meet new people, see old friends and colleagues and, yes, do business is imperative. Putting the “fun” back in doesn’t hurt the experience either.
How many of you have used guided networking at your events to bring in the newbies and make them feel welcome? Guided networking can be as simple or as involved as “speed dating” between exhibitors and visitors, mentor-protégé receptions or even silly icebreakers, depending on the type of your event and its attendees.
Fun is good for business. I challenge you to make your exhibitions a campfire experience.
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.