Forget about the chicken skewers in your trade show chafing dishes. The attendees at your exhibition are hungry for knowledge. Beyond the networking benefits of trade shows, people attend because they’re looking for new products, services or ways of thinking that help them solve problems and meet their personal or professional goals.
Likewise, exhibitors want you to satisfy attendees’ educational appetites as well. They know that satisfied attendees are in a better mood to buy, and they want you to attract attendees to the show who are sophisticated, economic buyers.
This means you, the show organizer, are responsible for putting together an enticing educational menu and serving up good, educational content for your show. This is key to attracting and retaining attendees and exhibitors.
Worried about appeasing your attendees’ various tastes and preferences? Here are a couple of tips to organizing successful educational sessions at exhibitions.
Provide an educational menu with the right variety and value
Your educational lineup is often one of the first things a prospective attendee scans before deciding whether or not they want to attend your event. Planning an enticing educational program is not as simple as finding a group of respectable speakers and designing sessions around them. Speakers are definitely important, but think about it: when you’re eating at a restaurant, do you care more about who is serving your food or the quality of the food itself?
The education program has to provide value, which means it has to increase attendees’ knowledge about subjects that are relevant to them. As UFI’s community manager Barry Siskind states about finding the right educational mix, “Attendees want the organizer to develop programs that answer the challenges they are currently facing.” You should take the time to find out what problems attendees are looking to solve, which is a great question to ask in a survey of past attendees.
Once a limited number of topic themes are determined, you can solicit speakers either directly or through a call for papers around specific topics. Valuable, relevant content must drive the educational program in order to satisfy attendees.
Consider how people like to be served information
Almost as important as what is being presented and who is presenting is how the information is being served. You wouldn’t hand a baby a serrated knife with dinner any sooner than you would give an adult their beverage in a sippy cup.
The technology you use to support your educational program needs to suit the audience. And, oftentimes there are some pretty safe assumptions that can be made about audience preferences based on their demographics.
For one, generational preferences should be taken into account when developing an educational program. The tech-savviness of your attendees determine which kinds of information to present and technology to use in support of the sessions.
In addition, particularly with international events, cultural preferences need to be taken into account. If your trade show caters to a global audience, it might be useful to know that China is ahead of the US and Germany when it comes to using technology in learning.
For most audience demographics nowadays, educational program support can be provided in the form of easy to use websites and mobile solutions. In fact, integration of engaging and interactive elements such as mobile solutions can allow organizers to create a more personal educational program. An ideal mobile solution will suggest interesting sessions to attendees based on preferences that have been defined, and contain integrated messaging through which users can contact speakers, exhibitors or other attendees. Whatever technology you choose, it should help facilitate connections and learning.
Keep them coming back for seconds…and thirds…
Remember, it all comes down to the right amount of variety and value. If you offer educational variety that has been vetted to confirm its value, you’re going to appease a substantial percentage of your attendee population. And, as you know, satisfying your audience is key to attracting and retaining attendees and exhibitors.