When it comes time to choose a trade show event venue, there’s more to consider than just the old mantra, “Location, location, location.”
David Welle, a senior event producer for Group Delphi, has some thoughtful tips on how to select the best venue for your exhibit.
Ask the Right Questions
When thinking about your prospective city for a trade show event venue, ask yourself, “Who are our clients, where are they coming from, and how are they going to get to the location?”
“It may not cross the mind of an event planner in, say, Arizona, that a winter event in Chicago might be problematic,” says Welle.
Cities like Chicago, Detroit, or Boston may be fantastic options nine months out of the year, but not so much when flights are canceled, sidewalks are slick, and heavy winter-wear is needed. Not to mention, many residents of wintery cities are looking to warmer climates during the deep freeze.
You also want to consider the location of your clients and how easy you want to make their trip.
“If your client has a head office on the West Coast, but their people are primarily on the East Coast, it’s a matter of picking, say, Orlando over San Diego,” says Welle. “And if you are dealing with global sales teams in Europe and/or Africa but want to bring them here, put them on the East Coast as an easy destination for international flights.”
The Attendee Experience
“The most important thing to consider is who your audience is and their expectations are,” says Welle. “What’s the personality of the company and/or the event? Is it a training session to bring in customers for educational purposes? Some might want a business venue like a hotel at the airport. Are you creating an event to celebrate or thank your employees? Then it might be something entirely different.”
Events and activations are an opportunity to think outside the booth.
“We have produced events at the end of an airport runway, an opera hose atrium in a city plaza, and a vacant retail mall across the street from a convention center,” says Welle. “Every time, the sites created buzz and visibility for what otherwise would have been run-of-the-mill events.”
Using an alternative space in proximity to a broader convention for the client’s industry can result in a memorable impact on your visitors. You can even go as far as the Mojave Desert, as we did for an epic example of experiential storytelling with Virgin Galactic.
When you go big, don’t forget to consider the practical elements of the trade show event venue. Some clients want an over-the-top experience, and others want to present a more practical approach to money. Make your qualitative assessments as far in advance as possible.
“You might like a unique, boutique hotel offering a great deal. But you could come to find that this deal comes at a higher cost when you discover the venue is operating at outer limits to support your needs,” says Welle. “Think if the venue can ultimately support all your needs, or will you be shoehorning in meetings and people? Will you have to spend extra money elsewhere?”
Think about your people
Certainly, mid-career doctors attending a medical conference are going to have different expectations than millennials attending a whiskey start-up event. Give equal measure to your behind-the-scenes staff, the people you hire to help you put on your show.
“Take the time to include your production team when you select a venue,” says Welle. “They can help with logistical issues.”
What’s more, you will want to meet with someone local at the scene to get a real sense of the personality of your venue. “Refer back to your head office,” says Welle. “They will often have a local person who can help you.” He suggests hiring a destination management company (DMC), even just for the day. “A DMC is well worth the investment,” he says. “Assistance in dealing with the hospitality and local entertainers is invaluable and well worth an extra price tag.”
Occasionally, you won’t have a much control when you choose a trade show event venue, but you can be conscious of the various aspects that will influence the success of your experience.
“Assign the right resources. Deal with it and make it happen. If you do this, you’ll be ready for anything,” says Welle.