Think Beyond the Tradeshow Floor: 11 Ways to Stand Out at a Convention

When Salesforce announced their new analytics cloud, Wave Analytics during 2014’s Dreamforce, it came complete with a flying drone followed by a Beach Boys performance. To go with the theme, attendees could pose on surfboard for a photo with #ridethewave. Now that is how you leave an impression at a massive conference like Dreamforce. But chances are, the Beach Boys and flying drones aren’t feasible options.

Luckily, there are still several ways to break through the noise at a major conference. Instead of planning an event inside the convention center, make your event stand out in an unexpected venue. Going this route is a less expensive option and also makes for a more unique and quality experience for attendees. Instead of getting distracted by nearby booths, you’ll get uninterrupted face time in a private space.

So, whether you’re launching a new product or holding a press conference, go beyond the tradeshow booth and think big with one of these ideas.

Make your event interactive

Find ways to get your audience involved in every aspect, whether that’s through contests, giveaways, or interactive demos. You’re more likely to leave an impression if your audience can interact with the product instead of just giving a demo or passing out flyers.

Book this converted general store in San Francisco to wow attendees.

Choose an unexpected venue

During massive conferences, people are used to traditional hotel rooms, stuffy meeting rooms, and massive tradeshow floors. Surprise attendees with a unique venue that will get them excited to spend time hearing about your brand, products, or news. Even better, booking a nontraditional venue will most likely be less expensive than pricey real estate in the convention center. Find a venue that’s right for your event.

Get social

To generate more buzz around your product or event, social media is the one the most effective (and cheapest) promotion tools. Some ways to activate your online communities is to create an event hashtag and promote it on your social channels leading up to the event. During the event, make sure there are social opportunities for user generated content — think photobooths or other Instagram-worthy stations. You can even use services like TINTto display UGC from the event.

Try Virtual Reality

When fitting, Virtual Reality (VR) can be a powerful way to wow a crowd. A great example of this is when TOMS, the company known for giving back, brought their mission to life in a pop-up using VR. Through their giving trip, customers could actually see how TOMS helps communities in underdeveloped countries. Brainstorm ways VR might fit with your company’s mission to give customers a way to connect closer to the product.

Add a charity component

During 2014’s Dreamforce, motivational speaker, Tony Robbins donated up to 1.5 million meals to help fight hunger. Not only did it leave a warm and fuzzy feeling with attendees, but it also created a great opportunity for press and exposure. There are many ways to achieve this success on a smaller scale.

Ditch the sad buffet

Once you nail down your venue, providing a delicious spread of things people actually want to eat is another way to draw in the masses. Do some extra research to find out what local foodies in the area would be excited to eat. Getting creative with F&B can also be a great opportunity for attendees to post on social. Who doesn’t want to Instagram a photo of a cupcake tower or DIY grilled cheese station?

Partner with similar brands to expand reach

Partnering with likeminded brands is a great way to break through the noise at a massive convention. Make sure the brands you’re reaching out to about potential partnerships make sense for your company. Even better, find a brand that is more established than yours with a larger social media presence. That way, when they promote the event on their social channels, your event will gain more reach.

Provide valuable networking

In order to entice people to attend your event, you’ll need to make it worthwhile. While cool swag and giveaways are great, inviting thought leaders and industry experts to the event is a more meaningful tactic. Once you can promise and promote the networking opportunities, structure the event so there’s plenty of time for attendees to get facetime with the valued professionals.

Bring in influencers

In addition to valued networking opportunities, paying influencers to attend an event could be another successful draw. When deciding on which influencers to partner with, look for people that are trusted within the industry to give their expertise. When setting up the contract with the influencer, decide on their deliverables ahead of time to get the greatest ROI. This should include a specific number of social posts, using relevant hashtags, and whatever else makes sense for the event.

Book this hidden garden pavillion in San Francisco’s sunny Potrero Hill district.

Create an oasis

When people are constantly on their feet in crowded areas, they’ll need an oasis to rest during these huge conferences. Give attendees reprieve by creating an environment where they can take a break from the madness. While attendees are resting, think about how you can insert the product into the resting experience. This could be done through branded charging stations or even sponsoring massage chairs and displaying your company’s logo underneath each chair. The more creative, the better.

Let customers sell for you

Rather than giving the hard sell, think about having customers do the work for you instead. One way to do this is by displaying large tablets at your event and including a touchscreen that lets people choose what information they want to know more about. ProStar Software found success at Dreamforce, where an attendee noted, “Within moments, I was connected to customer testimonials and a short presentation on the company’s offerings. Instead of waiting around to speak with someone, I was able to get the information I wanted on my time.”

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