Unconventional Conventions

We’ve all walked onto the tradeshow floor at a convention and been overwhelmed by the task of walking the whole floor and absorbing everything that’s there.  There’s only so much time that we have during limited time we to spend on the floor engaged in productive conversation with the exhibitors in addition to the educational seminars, events, off-shoot business meetings and company gatherings that we have to attend. 

In addition, for the exhibitors, the costs of hosting a booth can be astronomical in the design, set up, labor and staffing depending on the tier and city the convention is hosted in.   The conversion of contacts to sales to demonstrate a profitable return on investment can be elusive.   It may even be a losing proposition for smaller companies (and even some of the larger ones) when trying to maximize marketing budgets.

In the shadow of the “new” economy, we’ve found that many companies are looking for new ways to make productive contact with potential clients and begin constructive relationship building.  Will the traditional tradeshow booth fall as companies find more creative and economical ways to spend quality time with potential and established clients?  We think not, but there is alternative.

Clients are becoming more and more interested in creating alternate avenues to meet with their clients.  Chaotic tradeshow floors make it hard to really connect meaningfully with clients. How many times have you found yourself saying, “Do you want to slip away for coffee so we can talk?” Cocktail parties in the aisle of the convention centers offer equally low quality opportunities. Let’s face it, it really doesn’t matter what booth you’re in when the 5PM cocktails roll out, it’s all free and it’s hectic!  There’s no experience attached with the contact, nothing that can really set you apart from your competition in the next booth.  There’s only so much creativity that can happen within the confines of the limited square footage of an exhibitor booth.  Add in the policies and restrictions of the venue itself, and bam, you’re stuck on main street with everyone else.  Are you ready to try a different approach?

Recently, we had a client that decided to take a risk and do something different.  Instead of renting a booth at the tradeshow, they rented a mansion for three days, provided transportation, invited potential clients to a private presentation, met with them, engaged, and then at the end of the day, held a private cocktail party for the guests to enjoy and continue networking with key members of the team.

In addition, the last day of the convention, the company kept their team for an internal sales meeting to discuss and define how the alternative approach worked for them.  The feedback was positive – from both the potential clients AND the sales team. 

The team felt that choosing a different way to do things set them apart from their competitors, provided opportunity for meaningful and productive conversation and enabled them to really relationship build with their prospective client. It allowed them to remain focused on the goal at hand without all the chaotic distraction.   They didn’t have as many cold touch points in numbers but the conversion for sales actually increased because the people they were talking to were qualified prospects.  Not all companies can work this way, but in this circumstance it made sense and the return on investment proved immediate.

In addition, the expense for this particular company to try something different was considerably less, even with having to provide transportation to and from the convention center and hotels and providing high end food and beverage.  The mansion was branded in creative ways to make the property their own.  It left an indelible impression and clients were so appreciative of the focused time the company was able to give them.  Making an impression and moving the conversation forward?  Check.

Another company, used the ICEBAR Orlando for their tradeshow space which is within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center and the convention hotels like the Peabody and Rosen Plaza, again creating an opportunity to communicate that was different from the tradeshow floor, yet still easy for convention attendees to get to and spend some quality time getting to know a potential supplier.  (Watch for an upcoming blog in the next few days on this FABULOUS venue for events!) Again, the ICEBAR became a uniquely branded space that fit the company perfectly while providing a different experience from that of a traditional tradeshow.

While these are just a couple examples, the surrounding areas of convention centers often hold hidden treasures for developing and implementing a very strategic approach to convention visibility and client attraction and retention. Is it a trend?  We think perhaps it is, and if so, it’s a smart one.  Do we think it will take the world by storm?  Maybe not, because then there would be no purpose in having a convention at all.  Gathering like-minded people and businesses in one place to share ideas and strategize business is invaluable. However, for the discerning client that wants to capitalize on their marketing budgets, set themselves apart from their competition and capture and engage potential clients, this ideology certainly shows huge promise.

If you’re interested in developing an alternative option to the tradeshow floor, we’d love to help you find a venue that would match your company brand, and help you engage and focus on your potential clients.   For further information, please contact valerie@thevibeagency.com.  As always, we welcome your thoughts and opinion on the topic too.



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