To build a great exhibit experience, we need to understand our audience, and how they learn. What works for one generation may not be as impactful to another. It helps to study those differences and incorporate something that resonates with each learning group: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials.
Most adult learners must understand the “why” before they invest their time at your booth. They use life experiences connect to your brand, and they are there to learn how your company can help address a problem or provide a solution. This means that your branding and supporting materials must be both practical and relevant. Generally, most adults learn best in a democratic and collaborative environment. They are self-motivated to learn, and that only helps you!
One of the key elements for your attendees is actually having the time to reflect on the material. They need to understand benefit you provide and how it connects to their need. They want to visualize how it applies to them, so make sure to give them that opportunity.
Let’s talk about the generational differences between the three age groups, because that impacts how they learn and how we reach them:
Baby Boomers (1946-1964) were born in the age of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the struggle for Civil Rights and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are hard-working, career-focused, goal-oriented, competitive and motivated by prestige and their own professional accomplishments.
Generation X (1965-1980) is of the era with the Challenger explosion, high divorce rates, the first personal computers, the massive downsizing of corporate America and the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are productive and self-reliant, but can also by cynical and impatient. They are confident and consider themselves to be technologically capable, adaptable and informal.
Millennials (1981-2000) are the kids of Boomers and Gen X’ers, raised in the digital age, and witnesses to September 11th, Columbine and the U.S.-led war on terror. They are tech experts, goal and achievement oriented, and want instant gratification and recognition. They are team-oriented, optimistic and consider themselves “special.”
So, as you can see, these are very different backgrounds and characteristics. That translates to very distinctive learning preferences. Boomers require a lot of talk time when in groups, hands-on demonstrations and have no expectations of continual engagement. Gen X’ers like individual attention, feedback and visual appeal, where Millennials are more comfortable with active learning but require more mentoring.
How do you accommodate all generations? The key is finding the right mix. A recent study by CEIR showed that attendees have definite preferences for booth interaction. The highest rated were product demonstrations, followed by hands-on interactions with the products. Collecting and reading literature on the exhibitors’ products and services also ranked high.
How to Measure Learning
According to a recent GES poll, there are six major technology trends in education that affect booth learning. They are as follows:
- Mobile devices
- Online Learning
- Social Media
- Internet Connectivity
Let’s consider that it might be time to approach your booth design in a different way, as technology is clearly transforming the learning experience. For example, did you know that Walmart is using virtual reality to train new employees? Also, remote learning is on the rise. This lends credence to the hypotheses that attendees are eager to not only find new ideas and products, but also to learn, network and grow in new and interesting ways.
Learning and Sharing Online
The upsurge of the use of content marketing, which includes social media, video and blogging, among others, has changed the way that information is consumed. Incorporating these elements into your exhibits will resonate with all generations of attendees. If you do it right, your booth content becomes an extension of your brand community and helps move you toward new lead generation opportunities. Here are a few tips to improve effectiveness and reach:
- Provide high-value assets and other informational content online pre-show, at your exhibit and post-show
- Leverage your current content
- White papers
- Open online courses
Similarly, social media experiences have changed the ways we do business. In this space, you can use social media to:
- Stimulate discussion and drive interest in your product before the event
- Spur interest and traffic to your booth at the event
The impact that social companies exhibiting at a conference includes:
Creating Influencers, who are:
• Communicators of relevant contextual content in a rapid manner
Creating Advocates, who can:
• Create dialogue with motivated customers
• Share insights
• Become positive customer ambassadors
Using mobile phones and tablets for shorter content in your exhibit is a great way to incorporate video content marketing. Longer videos are best utilized on desktops or TV’s. The combination of video elements with social and other integrated marketing collateral makes for a well-rounded exhibit experience, providing hands-on resources to elevate your brand experience.
The most important thing to remember is that people learn differently. Each generation has specific interests and triggers for consuming the information that you are providing within your exhibit, and offline as well. Cover all of your bases, consider your audience, and craft the event experience that resonates long after the show is over.