Want to Attract New Audiences? Invite Them.

The Consumer Electronics Association is launching a series of programming for start-ups and entrepreneurs on the show floor at the 2013 International CES. How can other associations apply similar ideas to their own meetings and events?

Earlier this week the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that it would be launching new programming with the Startup America Partnership in January at the 2013 International CES.

The basic idea of the partnership is to bring programming specific to entrepreneurs and start-ups to the new Startup America Stage over the course of the four-day event. In addition, the stage will be contained within Eureka Park, an area of the show floor featuring next-generation technology as well as more than 140 start-ups, emerging companies, and entrepreneurs.

Instead of arranging tradeshow aisles by product categories, could it work to use different attendee demographics to organize the expo?

What CEA did here was both smart and simple. While the show is already known around the world for introducing the media and public to the latest consumer-technology products and services, it jumped on an area of potential audience growth.

According to the press release, this year’s Eureka Park area will be 40 percent larger than it was in 2012—when it was first introduced at CES. So CEA is smart to bring more attention to it and help grow it even more. Finding a partner dedicated to highlighting start-ups as innovators and job creators was a simple and good first step. And then by offering programming specific to this group in an area where they would likely either be exhibiting or wandering is a natural second step. By CEA giving attendees the opportunities to learn from both exhibitors and fellow attendees/innovators, imagine what innovation can happen as a result, which can potentially then be shared or exhibited at CES in 2014.

And while some of you reading this may think CEA has it easier than most associations because they already have a highly successful show that demonstrates technology and innovation in a tangible way, what’s not to say your next meeting or event can’t do something similar?

As I was thinking about this, I came up with two ways associations may be able to apply something similar:

1. Organize your tradeshow by audience segments. Instead of arranging show aisles by product categories (or however else you currently categorize), would it work for your association to use different attendee demographics to divide the expo? In the case of CES, they have dedicated floor space for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Some possible segments I brainstormed: young professionals, senior-level executives, new-to-the-industry attendees.

2. Blur the lines of separation that have traditionally existed between learning environments and the tradeshow floor. CES is doing this by offering programming for entrepreneurs in an area of the expo hall already dedicated to that audience. Associations are already beginning to experiment with different learning opportunities in nontraditional settings and formats. But what if expo floors also became learning spaces? Exhibitors would likely enjoy the additional foot traffic, and attendees may hear something in these sessions that could almost immediately connect them with an exhibitor only a few steps away.

What other ideas do you have? How has your association designed or organized its meetings or tradeshows to welcome a new audience? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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