Trade shows are the No. 1 source for providing face-to-face business opportunities between buyers and sellers. But, let's face it — there often isn't much that's “special” about the trade show business.
Our business model doesn't stray from the traditional trade show of selling exhibit space, securing corporate sponsors, then marketing to your audience to maximize attendance. Yet our philosophy allows us to make magic for attending consumers.
Three times a year we face the exciting challenge of turning a 100,000-square-foot blank space into the ultimate shopping experience for 2,000 couples planning weddings. Brides attending the Wedding Fair™ don't want to walk a trade show floor. They dream of a boutique bridal experience, personalized to them.
To make magic for our guests — the consumers of our sponsors and exhibitors — we need to design something special. Knowing a few tricks of the trade helps turn our trade show into an experiential event.
SCRAP THE FLOOR PLAN
Make your trade show floor feel less like a trade show. Layout is key. For years, our shows were set up in traditional form — long rows of 10-by-10-foot exhibits at one end of the hall and the fashion show experience at the other. We decided to change the entire show floor with cross aisles to break up the long rows.
Grouping exhibits on the floor into quads made it more approachable to guests and allowed exhibitors to create more dynamic displays. We created a department-store sensation with our exhibit areas by eliminating the 3-foot-high side panels and instead used 8-foot walls to separate exhibits. Offering a variety of tables and specialty linen options in place of the standard convention tables also helped eliminate the trade show feel.
STAGE YOUR SPACE
Interactivity isn't limited just to the exhibits. The entire show can incorporate both interactive and thematic branding in the way the space is staged. Each of our shows features a 150-foot-long themed entrance experience staged as a ceremony setting, so brides stepping onto the show floor literally are walking down the aisle. Adding a dramatic centerpiece to the floor is an engaging way for guests to view and experience an entire decor concept. Our “Reception Rotunda” is a reception display complete with an orchestra and ballroom dancers.
PLACES TO PAUSE
There is nothing worse than getting lost in myriad booths on the show floor. Instead, creating areas aimed at specific market segments, groups of guests or specific interests helps attendees navigate the floor. This feels less daunting to the attendees while helping your exhibitors maximize their efforts. Examples of boutique segments we use include: a high-end area branded as “Weddings Couture,” an ultra-lounge atmosphere dubbed “Club Groom” and a cafe build-out called “Belle Sposa Bistro.” Defining space is necessary; consider different colors of carpet or drape and include hardscape pieces, such as brand-able acrylic walls, to create and identify each area.
BIG DETAILS, SMALL STATEMENTS
From the design perspective, scale is significant for any trade show. Less is more; but less has to be big! Anything floor-standing should be at least 10 feet tall, and 14 to 18 feet in most cases, while ceiling fixtures need to be at least 10 feet wide to fit the scale of a large exhibit hall.
For beyond big, the little details make the experience personal. Look for small statements, ones that tell your attendees they are very important. Our bistro uses white linen and floral on each of the dining tables. The “Weddings Couture” area features an ice bar serving champagne drinks. Our restrooms include small floral arrangements at each sink and a bowl of mints at the entrance. Often, the small elements, which cost practically nothing, stand out and are referenced by our attendees and exhibitors.
ADD IN A REAL SPECIAL EVENT
Take the opportunity to create a unique event or promotion to excite your sponsors, exhibitors and guests. For us, this meant launching a trend wedding giveaway valued at nearly $200,000; the fantastic opportunity allowed exhibitors and sponsors to showcase their talents. As a promotional concept, the wedding giveaway encouraged 6,000-plus couples to attend the show to register. The actual wedding received copious coverage in print and television media. While the wedding giveaway promoted the trade show, the trade show showcased the wedding. The trend of the trade show is a step toward the show: creating experiences and environments for guests to enjoy. By getting innovative, it's possible to trick any trade show out of its 10-by-10-foot box.
Name: Matthew Trettel and Bruce Vassar, The Wedding Guys®
Company: Twin City Bridal Association
Address: 4050 Olson Memorial Highway, Suite 170
Minneapolis, MN 55422 USA
E-mail: [email protected]