Amid false starts and months of virtual experiences, in-person events are returning. The following case studies from recently staged live events highlight smart strategies, best practices and positive results that prove the comeback can, indeed, be greater than the setback.
Produced by: World Pet Association
Dates and Location: August 17-19 in Las Vegas
With the delta variant as a growing concern, a few SuperZoo exhibitors began withdrawing and, as such, rumors about the event’s status began to swirl. Immediately, WPA president Vic Mason committed to full transparency within the community. Empathetic communications to attendees and exhibitors addressed rumors, informed them of on-site safety plans that aligned with regional and venue guidelines, included quotes from confirmed exhibitors and featured big name registered attendees. The proactive, open, authentic messaging ensured that WPA controlled its own narrative in the months leading up to the event.
On-site, the energy and enthusiasm of participants was palpable. Several supplier companies sent representatives who, regretting their decision not to exhibit, secured their booths for 2022 during the on-site space selection process. The exhibitors who exhibited said that buyers were serious and that they felt immediate ROI, with orders happening on-site and many more in the pipeline.
According to Mason, “There was never a point where we doubted the show would go on. We channeled our certainty into a communications strategy that would instill confidence into our audience. As a result of the success we had this year, we’ve created a sense of heightened excitement for what’s to come in 2022.”
Event: Insuretech Connect
Produced by: Clarion Events
Dates and Location: October 4-6 in Las Vegas
How do you deliver a memorable experience and tangible ROI for attendees? Insuretech Connect found that the quality of the people who attended created quality connections. Exhibitors in particular expressed that they were able to do more business in just three days than they did in months of virtual meetings.
What worked for Insuretech was creating an unforgettable attendee experience. One way they did this was by drawing the event’s floor plan later in the planning stages. “We didn’t want to have all linear booth space,” said Liz Irving, executive vice president and head of marketing, technology and customer experience at Clarion Events. “As such, the floor plan was built around meaningful areas of the show floor that were dedicated to learning and networking.”
Part of creating a memorable experience is tapping into what attendees really want. Understanding the importance of in-person connections, Insuretech had an outdoor space so those who felt comfortable doing so could socialize without masks in the open air. And while education and learning are an important part of events, Insuretech didn’t want to over-program their event. After so long apart, people just wanted to be together and take part in the opportunities they had missed by not being face to face.
Event: Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition
Produced by: National Business Aviation Association
Dates and Location: October 12-14 in Las Vegas
NBAA decided to have a fully vaccinated show with no religious or medical exemptions and no testing alternative. As a result, it was able to have a show without masking requirements, which made a big difference in the social and networking aspects. In spite of some negative pushback and losing some exhibitors, NBAA Senior Vice President of Events Chris Strong said, “Any decision you make will bring some level of turbulence. While we probably won’t make that call for upcoming shows, in hindsight it was the right decision at the right time.”
While there has definitely been some fatigue with online events, one thing NBAA found very effective was webinars in advance of the event. It hosted three webinars total; two geared toward exhibitors that focused on marketing and “know before you go” and one for attendees. Over 500 people showed up just to learn and get excited for the show, and it cost nothing to organize.
In terms of what makes the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful show, Strong admitted a lot of it comes down to circumstances and timing, but said, “What you can control is your communications.”
A version of this article originally appeared in PCMA Convene.