What is the best way to ensure your attendees get real educational value from your exhibition or conference?
In a recent conversation with Paul Woodward, Managing Director of UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, Woodward told me that UFI has been continuously encouraging event organizers to provide educational programming that solidifies their stances as thought leaders in the industries they serve. However, he reminded, “It’s a nice concept, but not always easy to put into action in anything other than the most basic way.”
It is hard to anticipate what attendees and exhibitors want year after year, and sometimes being a good thought leader isn't about what you know – it's about asking the right questions and acting on the answers. For instance, with pre-event surveys, rather than asking attendees what they'd like to see at your next event, ask them what problems they are facing and put effort into ensuring your show delivers new answers to those problems, be it through new exhibitors or your educational sessions.
Encourage knowledge-sharing among experts
Woodward also mentioned the need to move away from a traditional seminar and lecture format where experts are provided as the main way to address concerns and interests.
“We have hundreds, thousands of well-qualified people coming together at our events,” he said. “Finding ways to manage the flow of interest groups and bring together like-minded people within the event floor could be a really exciting way to release new ideas and problem-solving teams for the industries we serve.”
Work closely with exhibitors
Barry Siskind, UFI Community Manager, also brought up the point that exhibitors are often left out of the planning when it comes to how information is delivered and arranged at an event.
“The good intentions of organizers are often lost when visitors walk the exhibition floor looking for specific information about products and services and untrained staff mishandle the opportunity,” Siskind points out. One way Siskind suggests organizers can improve the educational value of their event is to proactively encourage exhibitors to incorporate formal learning into their exhibit space.
“This is not an additional opportunity to pitch products but an initiative that teaches the visitor something that they have identified,” Siskind said. With a formal in-stand education training program, “Organizers can teach the exhibitor how to conduct in-stand education, how to set up their display and how to deliver content.”