Picture this - you enter an event and it feels like the sharks smell the blood in the water. You speed up your pace and avert the glances of the numerous exhibitors each desperately wanting to pitch you on the latest and greatest they have to offer. You can't get to your destination fast enough.
Here's an alternative. You enter an event and it is a welcoming experience. You are warmly and unassumingly greeted by exhibitors interested in amplifying your experience, offering you cocktails, gourmet snacks, games and environments that actually encourage you to sit and stay a while.
This is why you treat your event attendees like guests, not prospects.
Leading with a little bit of hospitality can go a long way on the trade show floor.
Hospitality is certainly an art form, especially from an exhibitor’s perspective. More often than not, exhibitors think that they only have seconds to engage an attendee before they move on to the next booth. Leading with hospitality flips that script. Leading with hospitality encourages event attendees to spend more time at your booth and have more meaningful and memorable interactions with your brand.
Here are some tips to incorporate hospitality into your next experiential marketing event.
1. Make hospitality personal to your brand.
Anyone can serve beer or wine at their booth, so it’s easy to lose your brand if you lead with the offer and not the experience. When devising the strategy for your booth experience think about your brand attributes, and how you want attendees to feel about your brand when they leave your booth. Remember, brand awareness is what people say when you leave the room. The overarching goal is to leave a lasting impression that amplifies your brand and makes your attendee guests feel valued.
Friendly and Approachable - If you want your brand to come across as friendly and approachable lead with the hospitality of your booth staff themselves. Ensure that you train your booth staff effectively to relay this feeling with attendees.
Personalized - If you want to convey being a large company that provides personalized experiences, create an experience where attendees leave with a personalized takeaway.
Innovative - Want to be seen as the most innovative and creative brand on the floor? Craft an interactive experience with VR, AR, Gamification or the latest event technology where your brand's innovation is the star of the show.
Your hospitality strategy should tie back closely to the essence of your brand.
2. Create a welcoming environment.
If you don’t want attendees to grab and go… make them feel comfortable or pique their interests so they’ll stay awhile!
One of the most effective ways to create a welcome environment is in your exhibit design. Consider upgrading your standard furniture with comfortable chairs, couches, bar stools and tables. Your design can reflect how you want attendees to feel. Make your booth feel like a retreat with plush materials if you want them to feel relaxed. Incorporate audio visual features to intrigue them to stop in as they pass by.
Another way to make your booth inviting is by providing engaging, fun interactive activities. Consider using technology experiences such as dynamic touch screen tables with interactive games, infographics or other media. Everyone loves a good photo opp, think of how you could make your booth experience an 'instagrammable' moment.
At the end of the day, the people you interact within an exhibit can make or break the attendee experience. Your booth staff needs to be trained to create and maintain the welcoming and hospitable environment you desire for your brand.
3. Follow up with attendees after the event.
When you invite guests over to your house, you thank them for coming. The etiquette also goes for your attendee guests. Every attendee is used to being bombarded after the event with generic ‘thank you’ emails. Your post-event communications need to be hospitable to bring your experience full circle. Think about how you can make these communications personalized, through emails sharing key details of your conversations. A handwritten note always means more. Remember you are working to build a relationship - take those post-event communications seriously.