With an ever-increasing number of events occurring outside the trade show floor, your job as a trade show event planner has become a real challenge. With so many get-togethers to choose from, you need to create enticing venues that attract the often weary trade show attendee, who has canvassed numerous custom trade show exhibits during the day.
Of course, getting VIPs to networking events can be tricky. To put your best foot forward, you need to have not only a professionally produced event but one that is highly memorable. How do you do it?
According to Karla Krause-Miller, Director, Cappa and Graham, Inc., a professional event-planning company in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, it is critical to create a trade show social gathering that dazzles and provides essential networking opportunities.
Here are a few of her event-planning tips:
1. Create an experience, not just an event. You must make it memorable by adding a “celebrity touch” or a special enticement.
2. Incorporate the atmosphere of the trade show host city into your special event, whether it’s in San Francisco, New Orleans, D.C., or Atlanta.
3. Allow time for face-to-face interaction and networking.
4. You don’t have to spend vast sums of money to create a grand experience.
5. No one may make sales pitches during entertaining; the evening should be relaxing and fun without obligation.
By way of example, Krause-Miller sites four creative events that the former Nellcor Puritan Bennett medical equipment company held during the American Society of Anesthesiologists Conferences. In addition to having a 20’x30’ custom island trade show booth, the medical equipment company held successful special networking receptions for VIPs.
In New Orleans, Nellcor rented a French Quarter museum home and hosted an event in its courtyard with a jazz band. The famous Paul Prudhomme’s K- Paul restaurant catered the affair. Each guest left with an autographed Prudhomme cookbook, making the experience special.
In Washington, D.C., Nellcor reserved Fords Theater (where Abraham Lincoln was shot). The VIPs got group tickets to a theater performance and, after the show, hosted a dessert reception with cast members in a private meeting room. Everyone had time to chat over dessert, liquors, and coffee. The invitations were designed as Playbills, adding to the show-biz evening.
In Atlanta, the invited guests toured Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind museum that showcased replicas and memorabilia from the movie. They then walked across the street to the Fox Theater, a beautiful 1920s historic home, and were treated to a catered fine-dining experience upstairs in a lovely, ornate private meeting room.
In San Francisco, the company reserved a couple private decks on one of the largest yachts in the Bay: the San Francisco Spirit. They hosted a sunset dinner cruise with fine wines and gourmet dining on the beautiful San Francisco Bay with the skyline of San Francisco aglow. The sponsors made sure these events stayed within FDA guidelines for entertaining professionals in the medical industry.
If you follow the basic rules for trade show event entertaining, your visitors will have a memorable experience. This will enhance your trade show exhibit or your trade show display rental experience as you will be able to network with your guests in a casual way after they have visited your trade show display.
This event-planning advice holds true wherever you have your exhibit, whether the show is at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the Santa Clara Convention Center, or the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
It’s up to you what type of trade show booth you select when you plan to exhibit at an event. You can have a memorable experience whether you have a pre-owned trade show exhibit display, a rental exhibit, a custom trade show exhibit, a custom modular trade show booth, a portable, or a pop-up exhibit.