During our Experienced Exhibitor Mastermind sessions, the focus was to brainstorm strategies meeting planners can implement to improve the exhibitor experience. Let me tell you, we came up with a TON of solid gold genius ideas. No way am I going to tell you all of them in one article! However, I will share two issues and solutions that came up repeatedly.
Location, location, location. No, this time we’re not talking about booth location. We’re talking about the location of the exhibit hall. Too often, the exhibit hall is the furthest ballroom from the hotel or registration area. Exhibitors often walk past room after room of lecture halls, breakout rooms, lunch rooms, and registration desks before finally arriving at their hall. Not only is this a PITA (pain in the @$$) for those of us that carry boxes back and forth, but it makes us feel like chopped liver. More importantly it deters repeated attendee traffic to the exhibit hall. Yes, we know, lunch and credit scanning is often in the exhibit hall to bring the attendees in... but it simply isn't enough and it's just not working.
For exhibitors to have success at meetings, we need attendees to visit the exhibit hall multiple times and spend quality time visiting booths. It often takes two or three "hits" for an exhibitor to finalize a sale at a meeting This will happen more easily if attendees walk past the exhibit hall (or better yet – through it!) before arriving at the general session ballroom. Each time they walk past, they are subconsciously reminded to visit and interact with vendors.
We know hotel logistics and space requirements play a part in room selection, but please, whenever possible, let the exhibit hall be the most easily accessible area of the event. The DPMs have to get their credits regardless. So they will take the extra 20 steps they may need to access the lecture hall.
Don't forget about the most classic advice from Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner". In our world, "Baby" is our exhibit family.
And now, for tip #2 – the bonus – the number one thing brought up by every exhibitor during our calls... I hope you’re sitting down for this one. Open your mind. Your initial reaction will be that there is no way this could work at podiatry meetings. Cut exhibit hall hours in half.
Conferences such as SAWC, WOCN, WOW and other wound care organizations were mentioned about a zillion times during our conversations. The unique thing about these specific conferences, is the daily exhibit hall hours are extremely limited; some are from 10-2 each day and others are only from 12-2 each day... and that's it!
Exhibitors that have been to these meetings said they were initially concerned about the limited exhibit hall hours, but were proved wrong because they were busy the entire time the hall was open. Limiting the hours of hall access creates a sense of urgency (aka FOMO) among attendees and encourages them to get in, take care of business, have meaningful conversations and not waste time.
Exhibitors would rather be busy for 3-4 hours than have traffic trickle through for 8 hours. No, we're not seeing patients on a daily basis, but our time is valuable and we lose a lot of important office time when we're at conferences.
Shorter hours for the exhibitors won’t leave us feeling as drained as a full day on our feet, it will give us time to take care of important business while we’re on the road (especially with employee shortages and everyone wearing multiple hats), and the result will be a happier exhibitor.
Happy exhibitors are more likely to return to your conference in the future.