Helping Tradeshows Suck Less

A little marketing innovation boosts the fun factor

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Quick, give me three words or phrases you think of when someone says “tradeshow.” If you’re the one usually attending shows, you might say “boring,” “too commercial,” or “I’m just here for the free vacation”. If you’re a marketing person responsible for executing and trying to show ROI for one of these events, you’d probably say “expensive,” “necessary evil,” or “giant black hole of time”. Anyone who has either attended or organized one of these dinosaurs of the marketing world can tell you that it’s just the same booths, PowerPoint slides, overbearing sales people, cheap-o booth schwag, iPad Mini drawings, terrible food, and mangled elevator pitches. Every. Single. Time.

At Kalypso, we focus on delivering maximum value from innovation for our clients, and our marketing team focuses on innovating the way we market consulting services. As a firm that lives and breathes innovation, expectations are really high. We often sponsor tradeshows because it would give a bad impression if we weren’t there, which seems like a strange reason to invest so much effort, resources and money.

So how can we turn this around? How can we create an interesting, unique, memorable experience for attendees? How can we build something dynamic for the event that is also useful afterwards as a part of an integrated marketing plan? How can we present something that embodies who we are as a firm and helps us actually have fun while we’re there? And how can we do all of these things while delivering an ROI?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I think our work during PTC Live is a step in the right direction. We hired a firm called ImageThink to capture visuals of the conversations that happened in our booth and during the sessions we presented with our clients. In our booth, we focused on two themes – one buzz-worthy topic that we knew was going to make waves, and one more mainstream topic that we knew would resonate with the engineers and product developers in attendance. We invited industry experts, solution providers and clients to come to the booth and speak with us about the topics. This meant the artist was actively drawing all the time. We quickly became the talk of the show, with countless folks stopping by to take pictures, listen and watch a huge blank canvas fill up with ideas.

During our presentations, the artist worked at the front of the room capturing the typical flow of challenge – needs – solution – benefits, and ended with a completely full canvas. This broke up the monotony of slide deck after slide deck, and kept the audience completely engaged with the content. At the end of the presentations, instead of walking out into the sunset (or to the bar), each and every attendee gave me their contact info because they wanted an electronic copy of the art. Not the slide deck – the art. Now we have a great reason to reach back out to all of these people and begin a conversation about how we can help them. And my message won’t get lost with all the other post-show emails because they actually want what I am sending them. One of the clients we presented with even asked me to send him the physical board itself, because he wants to hang it in their corporate office as a reminder of the hard work his team put in on that project.

Best of all, I can now use the electronic versions as captivating, fresh content to share on our thought leadership platform, Viewpoints on Innovation, and through social media. It’s wonderful to come home with more than just blisters on my feet and a perma-smile stuck on my face.

How do you innovate at tradeshows? What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen an exhibitor do?

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About the Author

Amy Kenly

Amy Kenly

Amy is VP of Marketing for Kalypso's Digital Innovation practice. She's an equestrian, a Red Sox enthusiast, and is addicted to Cheez-Its and Swedish Fish.
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