Meeting Engagement

How to Engage With Attendee Experiences

Including an experiential element at your next meeting is easier than you think.

Don’t spend thousands of hours and dollars planning an event only to find attendees passing the hours checking email. These days, incorporating an experiential element—whether that’s a physical activity during a session or a reception that features a cooking demonstration by a top chef—is critical for a successful event.

When the International Sign Association (ISA) changed the color of the carpet at its International Sign Expo, it was perhaps the biggest conversation piece of the show.

“It wasn’t a big expense,” says Brandon Hensley, ISA’s chief operating officer. “Instead of the gray, black, blue, or red, we thought, ‘What if we dye the carpet?’ ” The association colored the carpet a bright blue to match its marketing campaign. “So now emails, direct mail and expo show floor carpet are the same color. Why shouldn’t it match?”

ISA created an interactive entrance unit at Mandalay Bay in which attendees could virtually pull a slot machine and potentially win money. An image of the moment was then sent to the digital screens on top of the entrance unit and out on social media, all in real time.

ISA also created a smaller group within the show. “When you have 20,000 attending, they get lost, so you have to help them find their community,” Hensley says. ISA developed the ISA Elite Program, which offers special meetings and benefits for young professional applicants; they receive free show entry, hotel accommodation, and separate networking opportunities. “It reengages people who come year after year.”

Ideas in action

How can planners reach their audiences and provide a more engaging experience?

  • Create a lounge-and-learn area on the show floor to allow attendees to follow up with speakers after a session and to host book signings and smaller intimate gatherings.
  • Consider live entertainment—from stilt walkers to magicians—on the show floor during happy hour.
  • To keep attendees at the show until the end of each day, create a “last-hour happy hour” with bars serving free beer on the floor.
  • Set up a concierge program for top exhibitors, so they can order
    food and beverages to be delivered to their booths.

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