It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves trying to promote products and services before we’ve given the prospect a reason why they should learn more, and trade events can exacerbate the issue. After all, this is the place where you can see a lot of demos; we expect to collect product information.
However, trade shows can do so much more by creating opportunities for more meaningful engagement for everyone.
We provided this opportunity at the recent MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 in Las Vegas two weeks ago (and our B2B Summit before that). We gave sponsors the opportunity to engage prospects during an hour-long set of roundtable sessions on the exhibit floor the second day of the four-day event.
Here’s how it worked:
- Sponsors brought in thought leaders to guide 15-minute small-group discussions (no more than 10 people) on topics such as:
- Utilizing Automated Messages to Improve Your Email Program
- Maximizing Mobile Email ROI
- Optimize Data for Your Prospect Outreach
- Event attendees could select the three topics they thought most relevant to their issues and visit three different round tables.
The marketers and sponsors loved these sessions.
- Network with a small group of people with similar challenges and speak with them later in the event
- Get a glimpse into a vendor within the safe confines of a group
- Demonstrate thought leadership
- Build rapport and relationships with individual marketers
- Use these roundtables as a stepping stone for the next step in the journey, like meeting one-on-one in a coaching clinic or stopping by the booth for a related offer. (I did note that the most effective roundtable leaders were those who led a discussion and not those who asked one or two qualifying question followed by a 14-minute PowerPoint presentation.)
It’s no wonder the roundtable events were jam-packed and most of the discussion was constant and lively.
“It was better than speed dating,” one marketer admitted to me!
Other ways to creatively engage prospects include:
- Cocktail parties
- Coaching clinics
- Games to encourage networking
- Event-specific business cards with QR codes everyone can scan
Great conferences are rich with case studies, trends and advanced practices. This environment motivates participants to collaborate with the sponsors who are making innovation possible and each other. Where else throughout the year can this fruitful exchange happen so readily?
Seen in this light, trade shows have the potential to be a super-intensive engagement opportunity for everyone involved. Facilitating audience participation and collaboration should be a high priority for hosts and sponsors. It certainly is for us, and we would love to hear your ideas for increasing connection, collaboration and interaction at these events.
Optimization Summit 2013 – May 20-23 in Boston