Creating an Unforgettable Experience

Graphic: Digital Juice

Graphic: Digital Juice

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Have you ever been to a museum or theater performance where you felt like you became a part of the story? Perhaps you were able to interact with characters on a personal level and the story became so real that your eyes lit up every time you told someone about it, which was quite frequently.

For example, about 15 years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. (Yes, I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek!) Even if you’re not a fan of the show, you’re probably aware that it takes place in the future and the characters travel through space exploring new worlds. At the Experience (which has since closed, unfortunately), visitors began with a tour of the “museum” containing artifacts (props) from the show’s long-running history. Then you entered the heart of the Experience: a tour of the starship Enterprise. But along the way, something goes wrong and you’re transported into the future. The crew is scrambling all around you in an attempt to get you back home to Earth. While you’re aware the entire time that it’s a theatrical experience, your heart pounds as the adrenaline rushes – it feels very real.

As you can tell, this was an incredible experience that remains vivid in my mind. And while I always encourage exhibitors to create a memorable experience for attendees, it’s not often taken to that kind of level. But I do remember one example from several years ago that came close …

While it wasn’t very attractive from the outside, a giant walled-off box in the exhibitor’s booth did serve as a magnet for attendees. In fact, there was often a line waiting to get a look inside. The tour began with a brief video presentation explaining how several companies had come together to create a suite of software to streamline work in that industry. All relevant data and applications were stored on a central computer, yet could be used in real-time collaboration via webcams and shared information.

Next, guests were led on a walk-through tour demonstrating the process at work. First, actors dressed as field workers set up the problem and held a web conference with experts (more actors) back in the office, analyzing trends and identifying potential problems. On to the next stop where we observed the experts at work in company offices, studying the data that had been sent in from the field and searching for inconsistencies. Then we watched another team of experts using simulations to analyze data and play out “what if” scenarios. The final stop on the tour was a company executive on an airplane, who was viewing the data on her laptop before giving the final go-ahead for changes necessary to solve the current problem.

Following the tour, each guest’s badge was scanned and everyone received a hard-shell CD case containing two CD-ROM samplers of the company’s software. (Like I said, this was a few years back.)

So what did this company do differently? First of all, they made their booth more like a trip to an amusement park than a sales pitch. Instead of “selling” their software, they allowed attendees to eavesdrop on real-world applications and watch the process unfold. Next, there were no “hit and run” attendees. Everyone had to have their badge scanned before they could exit the giant box. And finally, the giveaway tied in beautifully with the message – we all went home with a sample so we could learn more about the software.

So do you have to take your in-booth experience to this level? Of course not! But the closer to that you come, the more likely attendees will not only remember their experience, but also talk about it for years to come because you stood out from everything else and became real to them.

What’s a great example of an unforgettable exhibit that you’ve experienced, or that you’ve actually created yourself? Please share in the comments below.

To learn more about how to create a more experiential exhibit, join us for the Strategy of the Month in the Exhibit Marketers Café during August. We’ll share tips for creating multisensory exhibits and how to attract more GenY attendees.

© 2014 Marlys K. Arnold (from the July 2014 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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