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Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees

Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees: 4 Tactics to Try

Of course you want to provide an exceptional experience for ALL of your conference attendees, but ensuring that happens for your first-time attendees is particularly important. Their decision to attend future events (and possibly even renew their membership) depends heavily on that first experience, so going the extra mile for those folks, in particular, is certainly worth it.

What does “going the extra mile” for your first-time attendees look like? Here are a few tactics worth trying:

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From OSAE: Refreshing Your Exhibit Hall

Posted by Callie Walker

Revamp Your Exhibit Hall.jpg

Trade shows are a huge opportunity for associations and exhibitors alike, but often, they're also a bit of a challenge. How do you make both your exhibitors and your attendees happy? How do you boost not only floor traffic, but engagement?

Well, I sat in on a webinar hosted by the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives last week that covered all of that. It was presented by Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, at Saal Meeting Consulting, and Dana spoke in great detail about how to revamp your association’s exhibit hall.

Now, I won’t give away all of Dana’s secrets (for that, visit Saal Meeting Consulting), but I will share a few trade show tips that were particularly intriguing…

To drive traffic, consider hosting events in the exhibit hall

Sometimes, attendees avoid the exhibit hall altogether (or they simply grab swag, then leave). To prevent that from happening, consider hosting fun events - where people will want to gather - inside the exhibit hall. For example, consider having a “Connecting Hub” in the middle of the trade show floor. This could be an area with computers housing speaker notes, where attendees could chat following the educational sessions. Or, it could be an area with dining options, where attendees could easily plan their evening out. Either way, make it an area where people will want to come together and connect. (Chances are, they’ll likely swing by some of the nearby booths as well.)

To drive engagement, consider playing around with games/giveaways

Now games are common at trade shows, but if you haven’t seen success in the past, perhaps it’s time to try a different game. One Saal recommended: Mystery handshaker. Here, select one of your exhibitors to be “Mr. or Mrs. X.” Don’t tell your attendees who the person is - just let them know they’re somewhere on the trade show floor. Then, get creative! For one association, it was their 130th anniversary, so the 130th person to shake “Mrs. X’s” hand won a grand prize. This encouraged attendees to actually meet and chat with the exhibitors (not just pop by and grab something).

To help your exhibitors build relationships, provide them with “non-salesy” environments

Trade show booths are great, but sometimes, they can come across as a little salesy (discouraging people from coming by). To help your exhibitors build relationships with people who don’t like stopping by trade show booths, consider creating a few “non-salesy” environments - sponsored by your event exhibitors.

Saal gave a great example of one she’s seen done before: an app lounge. Here, an association had an app for their event, but because it was so new, not many people downloaded it prior to the actual event. Because of that, the association created an app lounge - manned by one of the event exhibitors. This person helped attendees download the app, and not only that, but shared some of his personal favorite apps (for example, a flashlight app) and helped attendees download those as well. He also encouraged attendees to share some of their favorite apps. Then the next day, the association typed that list up and sent it out to event attendees.

Pretty valuable, right? And not just for the exhibitor, but for the association and attendees as well!

For more of Saal’s tips, visit Saal Meeting Consulting.

And for a few exhibitor tips of our own, check out our free guide to vendor relations below!

Are Your Vendors Engaged? Do You Want Them to Be?  Tips for boosting vendor engagement and participation Download this guide

Topics: association management, event planning, membership management, Small Staff Chatter

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