Extreme Makeover: Tradeshow Edition

The Association for Creative Industries completely overhauled its annual conference and tradeshow this year—calling it Creativation. Here are some details that went into the redesign, as well as the benefits a tradeshow makeover could bring.

I’ve always been a fan of makeover shows, whether fashion- or home-related. I used to love to watch marathons of What Not to Wear, but today my preferences lean more toward Property Brothers and Fixer Upper. Like most other viewers, my favorite part is the big reveal at the end when you see the homeowners in shock—and usually in tears—over what the designers have done.

Well, the Association for Creative Industries, formerly the Craft and Hobby Association, had a big reveal of its own about a week ago. That’s when AFCI introduced Creativation, its rebranded and reinvented event for the crafting industry.

Previously called the CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show, AFCI reimagined its tradeshow as a vibrant creative city—the capital of the creative arts industry—where industry professionals go to gain to knowledge.

“One thing that inspired the neighborhood city theme is that our show is like a huge family reunion every year, so we wanted to create a place for them to come home to,” said Andria LaJeunesse, vice president of events and education, to Trade Show News Network earlier this month.

Attendees were able to hop on and off the tradeshow shuttle bus after visiting the registration lobby train station and picking up their “tickets” (badges). From there, they could check out the show’s 10 new feature areas, clustered around city streets and neighborhoods. Among them:

  • Art Studio, where attendees could make their own masterpieces in the “Splatter Room” or at a paint-and-sip event.
  • Innovations Center, where they could discover never-before-seen ideas, trends, methods, techniques, and devices through hands-on and interactive displays.
  • Edible Arts Shoppe, where they could immerse themselves in the cookie-decorating and sugar-arts industry.
  • Maker Space, where participants could use and experiment with state-of-the-art equipment and crafting tools. While there, attendees could also stop by iDiscover chats, 15-minute lessons presented by business and social media experts.
  • Plugged-In Park, where they could sit and relax under the shade of a tree or gather friends for a picnic in the park. It served as an oasis when it was time to take a break.

LaJeunesse told Trade Show News Network that Creativation came into being after the association realized it was time to update the 76-year-old tradeshow to better meet member needs.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in our retail landscape … [and] we determined that one of the ways we could help our members understand those changes was to completely redesign our annual conference and tradeshow from the ground up, creating an entire experience where industries can come to learn, connect, and discover,” she told the publication.

While completely overhauling a tradeshow is no easy feat, as in AFCI’s case, it could be a good way for an association to respond to changes both in the industry and among its members. It could also draw more sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees with its “new factor,” particularly if there’s no one else out there serving the same need.

When getting started on a tradeshow revamp of your own, a good first step is took look at trends within your industry as well as research related to conferences and events.

For instance, in the ASAE Foundation’s recent research report, Current and Emerging Trends of Trade Shows, completed in conjunction with Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research, tradeshow attendees and exhibitors were asked about characteristics of the show they most recently attended and to identify components of hypothetical tradeshows that would influence their decision to attend.

The report revealed that when deciding whether to attend a tradeshow, exhibitors and attendees are looking for the best overall value. Time, money, and the quality of the program are all crucial.

To best serve the tradeshow market, research suggests that meeting planners face the challenge of meeting mulitple needs. They have to provide opportunities for exhibitors to market their products, for attendees to engage in distinctive learning programs, and for all participants to forge fruitful connections with their peers—all in a few days in an accessible, affordable location.

Definitely some ideas to think on as you ponder the future of your tradeshow.

What other factors would determine whether a tradeshow redesign is required? Let us know in the comments.

(via The Association for Creative Industries Facebook page)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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