I just graduated college in June, and officially I'm new to the tradeshow industry. However, my dad, Lew Hoff, has decades of experience in the business. I've been around the industry my whole life. I am grateful for the lessons my dad has taught me about business, relationships and the value of just showing up.
Recently I've attended a few trade shows and would like to offer up this advice to attract and retain a younger audience of attendees:
Entertainment: Our generation is constantly engaging in multiple activities at once. Media and technology, especially, have a huge impact on young people. It has been embedded in everyday life. To most of us, it is even seen as a necessity. Many watch television, use our computers to browse Twitter, reply to emails on our phones, read articles on our iPads and listen to music. We are juggling all of these activities at once! Young people are pros at multi-tasking. We have been brought up and subconsciously trained to be good at it. This means we expect to be entertained when we attend a tradeshow. Entertainment doesn’t consist of a screen, playing a video on repeat, or candies in a bowl on your exhibit table.
We expect to be wowed.
As an exhibitor, you really need to think outside the box and be creative with your company’s presentation. To captivate us, engage in all of our senses. Don’t be afraid to overpower us with entertainment. Unlike the older generation, we want to interact with you in many ways, all at once. Myself being part of the young generation, I can tell you first hand that we don’t want to simply be sitting and watching. We want to be up, interacting with you and be entirely engrossed in the activities around us. The older crowd may choose to watch a product demonstration; where as the younger crowd would much rather have the product in their hands, to play around with. It is important we share an experience with your brand. It is far more likely we will remember an experience with your company, rather than statistics and facts you throw at us.
Treat Each Attendee Like Your Only: No one wants to be a number in a crowd. Although you are meeting and speaking with a large number of people, make it a point to show genuine interest in every single attendee you meet. This will provide them with a sense of value. Demonstrate eye contact, listen closely, smile and refer to them by name. Everyone loves hearing their name. As an exhibitor, calling them by name shows you are truly happy to meet with them.
Experiential Exhibits: A young crowd will be attracted to hands- on experience with a product. If you are selling a service, provide demos that allow us to try it for ourselves. This will make us more attached to your product, making it a need, rather than a want. Obviously if your company sells a product such as a construction crane, you will need to examine a different route. Because we have grown up in the world of new advances, and constant evolving technologies, another option is to use new and fun tech tools. Young people were taught with and are accustomed to using virtual tools. If it is unrealistic to bring your product to us, at least bring the experience.
Do you know what I love about tradeshows most? Meeting “older” people (like my dad) who get a kick out of helping young people out.
Orly Hoff, 2011 University of Massachusetts Amherst Alum