Open Mic Recap: Create Audience-First Experiences at Expos & Events

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In case you missed our recent Exhibit Marketers Café Open Mic event on LinkedIn, here’s a quick summary. Thanks to those who came on stage to join the conversation: Janice Shokrian, Rajarshi Banerjee ? ??, Michelle Nicole McNabb and to everyone who joined us in the audience. And keep your eye out for more Open Mic events coming in 2023! (If you have a topic suggestion, please share in the comments.)

First a little background on this topic … Ever heard of the Savannah Bananas? They’re reinventing the world of baseball by thinking waaayyy outside the game and putting fans first. We need to do the same thing in our trade shows and events.

Here are a couple of videos from Jesse Cole, owner and innovator of the Savannah Bananas – if you don’t already follow him, I highly suggest you do. His “One Minute Boost” videos contain great nuggets of insight!

I also had the opportunity to sit in on Jesse’s “Fans First” keynote during Liz Caruso’s recent Techsytalk event, so our discussion riffed off a few of those talking points as well.

First, we covered important friction points at events and how to eliminate them:

  • Seamlessly connect the two audiences during a hybrid event (Rajarshi)
  • Competition on the show floor – focus on building camaraderie instead (Janice)
  • Ask the right types of questions, then segment and listen to their needs (Michelle Nicole)
  • Create great experiences on the show floor (Janice talked about good & bad examples)
  • Connect with the right people – the ROI of the whole event is based on the experience, so get feedback through surveys and other tools (Rajarshi)

Next we discussed the “What Ifs” that could reinvent our events:

  • Conferences need new formats with more breakouts being delivered on-demand in advance, with attendees coming to the event ready for deep-dive roundtable discussions, “like a Book Club for white papers” – Michelle Nicole
  • More focus on 1:1 connections – “content is important, but connections are what drives business” – Rajarshi
  • People should have the option of being more generous with their information, plus it should be easier to access the onsite wifi (without the extra charges) – Janice
  • Trade show floors need to be reimagined … what might we learn from say, IKEA? (I shared this somewhat controversial podcast episode from a few years ago.)

We reflected on how to craft a customer journey and experiment to see what works:

  • Always ask, “What’s my experience as an attendee?” – Rajarshi
  • Understand that on the show floor, “everybody’s my audience” – Janice
  • Advocate for all parts of the audience (speakers, sponsors, exhibitors & attendees) – Michelle Nicole

And as a bonus, here’s my latest podcast episode with Phil Mershon on how to create more memorable moments at your future events.

How do you put your audience first at your events? Please share in the comments!

And if you’d like help coming up with specific ideas for your next trade show, reach out to me. We can set up a brainstorming session to discover the best ways to connect with your audience.

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