We’ve all seen families at restaurants, heads bent forward, all eyes on devices. We’ve been distracted by the glow of a phone in a darkened movie theater. And, it’s okay to admit, we ourselves may have walked into a tree branch or fire hydrant while scrolling through text messages once (or several dozen) times. We clearly have an appetite for digital content. As an experiential marketer, imagine if you could command attention with digital content at trade shows the way our phones do everywhere else.
It’s not as simple as swapping out all of your signage for LED screens — incorporating digital content at trade shows needs a strategy. And really, do you want visitors staring blankly at screens the whole time, or do you want digital content to be a useful tool that guides them through the experience you’ve thoughtfully designed? You can craft a winning digital content strategy for your live events that leaves attendees as enchanted by your brand as they are with their phones.
Content Before Technology
Too often, teams start with the trendy tech du jour and leave content as an afterthought. Content isn’t mere filler, it’s the story you’re trying to tell. Before you even think about investing in flexible LED screens and VR goggles, sit down with your team to plan the narrative. Spend time working out the messaging and writing. What is your end goal? How do you want people to interact with your content? The story determines the technology that will make the experience work. Sometimes the best technology is paper or a one-on-one conversation — and sometimes it’s an immersive digital experience that pushes the creative limits. A well-designed experience pairs the right story with the right medium, and fits with your overall experience.
Architecture Supports the Story
Remember that you are telling the story of your brand by the experience you offer. You do this by integrating your digital content into the architecture of your booth. ePosters can offer a quick and easy way to keep visitors updated on your products and booth schedule. Curved LED screens can create a more seamless way to convey information. Consider using full LED walls and projection mapping to create a visual habitat that feels more spacious than the limited confines of a booth.
Make IRL Count
Your people are your greatest resource, so consider how digital can support your staff. Interactive kiosks can entertain attendees and provide useful information while they wait to speak with a booth member. Keep the visitors engaged by offering ways to learn and play with your content. When real-time updates are flowing, you can feature messages from Instagram, Twitter and other social networks in your booth, showcasing activity as it happens. Multiplayer games, instead of distancing people from the real world, can inspire real-time competitive interaction and camaraderie between attendees.
Old and New are Friends
You don’t have to have the latest gadgets to engage your visitors. Think about science museums: a digital wall panel may sit totally ignored while everyone clusters around the tactile interactives — the fan that makes balls hover in midair, the laser light mazes with movable mirrors. The trick that museums know from experience is that blending digital and analog can be a powerful draw, and more memorable than something purely virtual. Escape room games often employ similar tactics. If the puzzles are only old-fashioned pen and paper, players get bored; if they just exist on a screen, the experience doesn’t feel connected to reality. Together, digital and analog experiences can be more than the sum of their parts.
Break Down Walls
It’s always best practice to build your trade show strategy into your full multichannel marketing strategy, but events can often seem walled off from the rest of a brand’s marketing efforts. Digital content at trade shows can be the tool to break down those walls. The biggest advantage of digital content is its flexibility — it can live in multiple places at once, take on different forms, get updated on the fly. Expand your concept of an event beyond the walls of a convention center: let potential clients that can’t make it to a trade show across the country or halfway around the world join the experience. Create live content that flows to your other digital channels. Do digital content well, and your audience becomes the world.