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ou've seen it time and time again: Attendees wander the trade show floor, glancing at your graphics and listening to a few minutes of your product presentation. But are they actually interacting with your booth staffers and absorbing your company's key messages? Effective teachers encourage active participation in their lessons in hopes that hands-on interaction with the subject will help the information to cement in their pupils' brains. Much the same, incorporating activities in your exhibit can be an effective way to educate attendees about complicated product information and increase their dwell time. What's more, the proliferation of technology such as tablet PCs and touchscreen monitors means that adding a little multimedia magic to boost attendee engagement is easier than ever. So EXHIBITOR compiled the following five examples of tech-based activities, which transformed booth visitors from passive observers to active participants.
The loyal viewership of game shows such as "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" is evidence of the popularity of on-the-air competitions. And because of that acclaim, pharmaceutical maker MSD Oss B.V., a subsidiary of Merck & Co. Inc., staged its own gameshow-like activity in an aisle-facing area of its exhibit at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) show in Istanbul.
The convention's global reach meant that many attendees were not from Turkey and its surrounding region, so Merck, working with New York-based multimedia engagement firm Blue Telescope, created a product-information quiz dubbed the "Merck Fertility Challenge." The activity not only tested attendees on the benefits of Puregon, Orgalutran, and Elonva, three of its pharmaceutical products, but also fed them trivia about Istanbul.
After drumming up enthusiasm for the game and telling attendees a little about Merck's products, a host beckoned passing attendees to step up to one of four iPads mounted on pedestals. Next, he read aloud six multiple-choice and true-or-false questions, and invited participants to select the appropriate answer on the iPads in front of them. Questions pertained to one of Merck's three products, their proper usage and dosage, and the scientific data that backed up its claims. All question/answer pairs that referenced specific research studies
also included a third screen with bibliographic information.
Between trivia questions, attendees were treated to interesting factoids about Istanbul, which were displayed on a large monitor as well as on the tablets in front of them. Each colorful compilation comprised an illustrated-map background, eye-catching graphics, a photo, and an interesting fact about the landmark or cultural destination pictured.
Each round of the game tapped less than 25 percent of the total question pool, so many attendees returned to the booth and played the game multiple times, furthering their knowledge of the region – and the company's suite of products. By engaging attendees, giving them tourist tips, and teaching them about its products in an interactive format, Merck made sure that memories of Istanbul weren't the only things that attendees would take away from their time in Turkey.
Oftentimes, opening a meaningful conversation with a booth visitor can seem as daunting as dialing a phone number to make a cold call. At EXHIBITOR2014, a conference and trade show for face-to-face marketing professionals, Milwaukee-based exhibit house Derse Inc. developed a solution that helped attendees and booth staffers loosen up, and fostered interaction between the two parties to boot.
Booth staffers wearing plain blue sweaters invited attendees into a mock forest staged in the corner of Derse's 20-by-40-foot exhibit to participate in a short quiz. The scene was complete with faux trees overhead and a host's podium fashioned to look like a tree stump. The game's digital interface kept with the arboreal theme, including a trail sign and forest images that appeared on flatscreen monitors and iPads attached to kiosks. After attendees entered their contact information into one of the three iPads, a booth staffer began asking multiple-choice questions. Targets corresponding to possible answers were displayed on a large monitor mounted on the exhibit's back wall, and four acorns, each representing a different answer, appeared on attendees' tablets. To answer the question using the iPads, participants dragged the appropriate acorn to an image of a slingshot and fired it at the correct target on the large screen behind the host.
The questions started off silly, such as "What do you think of our blue sweaters?" and multiple-choice answers included "The boys look sharp," "The girls look better," "I want one," and "Where's the logo?". Each subsequent question gradually probed at attendees' exhibit program needs. The penultimate question was more serious, asking attendees to "Select the one thing that you believe will improve your face-to-face program" (possible answers included "Better use of technology within my booth," "More staff training," "Better strategy and approach to trade shows," and "More experiential engagements to attract and retain attendees"). The last of the five questions asked participants to guess what percentage of chief marketing officers believe their company does an "extremely good" job of converting trade show leads into customer business, according to a recently published survey. That question – and its surprising answer of just 6 percent – sparked further conversation with the host about how the exhibit house could help clients maximize their trade show presence.
Derse didn't include the interactive activity in its exhibit just for a dash of whimsy, however. The playful quiz created hands-on, tech-based interaction, and served as the perfect opener for Derse staffers to ask attendees about the challenges they were encountering with their trade show programs. Talk about seeing the forest for the trees.
Information technology (IT) professionals have long been subjected to the stereotype of being office nerds. But at the RSA Conference, an annual gathering of Internet security professionals held in San Francisco, Tripwire Inc. sought to create a platform for IT professionals to show off the substantial data bank of knowledge that the industry requires. To do that, the Internet security software firm created a continuously running trivia game in its exhibit.
With the help of its exhibit house, Aura XM Inc., Tripwire transformed a central area of its exhibit into a game-show stage. The back wall featured a 10-by-7.5-foot tiled screen, where answers were tallied in three vertical columns (one for each player) containing five boxes each. A green check mark denoted a correct response, a red X represented an incorrect response, and an orange question mark held a place for questions that were yet to be asked. Each question, which was read by a host, was displayed over the top of the scoreboard. In front of the screen were three waist-high touchscreen kiosks, which contestants used to submit their answers. Questions such as "What is the largest security incident ever recorded?" and "What is the official Twitter hashtag of the RSA Conference?"may have seemed like geek speak to the general population, but each of them pertained to either an industry statistic or a piece of trivia related to the conference.
Game-show installments were repeated every five minutes, providing a steady stream of booth traffic. And while the only prizes offered to winning participants were bragging rights, the face-off element had attendees buzzing and challenging one another throughout the show. But the real winner was Tripwire, as the trivia-based tactic led to a 25-percent increase in booth traffic and a 20-percent increase in leads over the previous year.
When a brand has a mascot whose image is synonymous with its logo, it makes sense to have that character become a central component of its booth. Michelin North America Inc., however, didn't just plop its Michelin Man mascot (aka Bib, short for Bibendum) in its exhibit at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Instead, the tire manufacturer invited attendees to interact with a lifelike digital avatar of Bib.
Visitors stepped up to a 16-by-9-foot seamless LCD touchscreen monitor, where they were greeted by a larger-than-life representation of the iconic mascot, fabricated by Monroe Township, NJ-based National Micro Rentals Inc., aka NMR Events. Instead of preprogrammed interactions, however, Bib engaged with attendees in real time, courtesy of a backstage actor who could preview the audience via a video camera mounted above the screen, and adjust the avatar's reactions accordingly using a special glove with sensors attached.
Bib performed stunts such as reaching off the screen and taking photos with the audience before asking attendees to participate in a safety challenge. True-or-false and multiple-choice questions about driving safety appeared on the screen, and players answered by gesturing a thumbs up or thumbs down at Bib or holding up fingers. After attendees responded, an explanation of why the statement was correct or incorrect appeared.
By making Bib the host of its digitally based game, Michelin created a lighthearted activity about a serious topic. In addition, the company conveyed facts relevant to its message through authentic attendee interactions with its beloved Bib mascot.
Take a Spin
Branded tchotchkes can be an effective way to spread brand awareness. But often, their distribution is about as strategic as handing out candy on Halloween. TD Auto Finance LLC may have filled attendees' show bags at the 2014 National Auto Dealer Association show in New Orleans, but there was a method to its madness.
When attendees entered TD Auto Finance's exhibit, a staffer scanned the Quick Response (QR) codes on their badges, and then administered brief surveys using tablet PCs that asked visitors about their dealership needs and allowed them to opt in to further communication with the auto loan provider. As a token for their time, staff gave each visitor a Hot Wheels car inside branded packaging. Not only did the customized box mirror the exhibit's graphics, but it also included an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.
The toy car, however, was merely an appetizer for the giveaway entrée. Staffers guided attendees to a vertically mounted touchscreen monitor, outfitted by Multi Image Group Inc., which served as a digital prize wheel. Attendees scanned the RFID chip embedded in the toy car's packaging to activate the game. And as a charming addition, attendees pressed an image of a gas pedal on the screen to make the wheel spin. Different wedges on the wheel represented different branded prizes, including a leather mouse pad, miniature Bluetooth speaker, laptop bag, and leather journal. After they let go of the pedal, the wheel coasted to a complete stop, and attendees took home whichever gift the wheel landed on. From there, attendees could browse a virtual dealership and learn more about the lender's product offerings. The giveaway strategy turned game made every attendee a winner, and generated upwards of five minutes of valuable face-to-face time for TD Auto Finance.
Fun and Games
Oftentimes, marketers make the incorrect assumption that interactive learning is little more than fun and games. But the truth is – when implemented correctly – activities, contests, and other interactive approaches offer myriad benefits for exhibit and event marketers. Below are a few reasons why you might want to add interactive elements to your next face-to-face marketing initiative.
Traffic Generation: Many interactive elements attract attention simply because they're entertaining. Which exhibit are attendees more likely to visit: One full of sales reps armed with badge scanners, or one with an activity zone full of smiling attendees engaged in an activity?
Engagement Initiation: It's not always easy for booth staffers to break the ice with passersby. Inviting someone to participate in an activity is a less daunting challenge – and a far less impersonal interaction – than diving into a discussion about their budget.
Message Retention: Research suggests that interactive elements can improve message retention because they require a heightened level of engagement from participants. Printing benefit statements on your back wall is a more passive approach than engaging prospects in a multiplayer trivia challenge that forces them to consider those key messages and guess, for instance, how much more efficient your products are than your competitors'.
Data Collection: While many attendees might be unwilling to provide you with contact and qualifying info via a badge scan or lead form, people will often serve this info up more freely when the interface involves an activity with which they'd like to engage.