We’re exploring three planning ideas that experiential marketing professionals should pay attention to, not only to match the pace of a changing industry, but to reach audiences where they are and create real connection.

Content is the Foundation

The foundation of every great show is content, and in today’s industry landscape, it’s playing a more important role than ever before. When we think about content, it’s essential to consider that it’s more than just the elements that add to an experience, it is the experience. 

 And because people are taking more time to decide which events they’re planning to attend, it’s likely that content will be a key factor in their decision-making process, regardless of whether the format is virtual or in-person.

“Attendees are becoming more selective and in the short term, this means most people (particularly the former road warriors) will likely go to fewer events than before,” writes Rohit Bhargava in a Smart Meetings article. “On the flip side, the events that they do choose to attend will become more meaningful . . . As a result, these chosen events will have the potential to inspire people more profoundly and lead to more powerful networking connections.”

So where should trade show and event professionals begin when it comes to developing content? Consider your attendees’ perspective and lead with a human approach. What are their goals for attending your program? What kind of format best fits their needs? How will you show them you’re taking their wants into consideration and tailoring your show accordingly?

“When it comes to developing an event content strategy (whether in-person or virtual), having identified a strong point of view for audiences to understand puts brands ahead,” says Melissa Meloro, Vice President, Strategy, at Sparks. “If attendees like choice? Provide it. Is the messaging murky? Clear it up — and repeat if necessary. Compassion, empathy — and really understanding who is going through the experience is what helps make content the connective tissue of an entire experience.”

Ultimately, content plays a vital role in creating connection, establishing trust and loyalty, and showing audiences that you’re listening to their needs. 

Emphasizing Regional Experiences 

Localized and/or regional experiences can play an important role in providing the kind of personal, individualized connection many people are seeking today, due to their more intimate nature and ability to reach audiences where they are. 

For brands, this could mean developing a program that’s within a short distance of your primary audience or even going on the road via mobile marketing to connect with audiences in several key locations. 

Overall, it’s going to be important for trade show and event professionals to consider making regional events part of their larger trade show plans, whether they’re designed to be one-off experiences, experiences within a larger in-person program, or counterparts to an online event.

Finding the Right Dynamic Between Live & Digital 

One of the most prominent elements to affect trade shows and events has been the rise of virtual and digital program formats. As a result, many industry professionals have had to increase their level of familiarity with different types of virtual event technology. And while this kind of technology itself isn’t new, its ability to fuel audience engagement and connection has grown considerably.

“Essentially, event technologists now need to be familiar with the myriad virtual engagement and streaming tools to be able to help create robust event experiences in this new digital landscape,” notes Victoria Copans in an XLIVE article.

With virtual program formats unlikely to go away anytime soon, it’s also going to be important for trade show and event professionals to hone their hybrid program approach, keeping in mind the importance of designing content in such a way that it speaks to the needs of attendees and meets their goals, regardless of format.

It’s vital to consider that for audiences, the kind of content they’re looking for, amount of time they’re willing to spend, and even their attention spans differ between in-person and online experiences. This makes finding the right virtual platform all the more important, to not only help your audiences find the value in your program but to deliver an experience that meets and exceeds their expectations and makes them feel listened to.

At the end of the day, it’s all about finding innovative ways to bring people together and create genuine connections between brands and attendees, something that will always be essential.