Engage. Engage. Engage. Getting the Most Out of Convention Booths

Yes, I have been there too and I have sat in your seat! Many years on the commercial and brand team side of pharma has lead me to both great learning experiences (mistakes!) and awesome successes. We have all had this happen: our boss sits with us in November or December and we get our performance review and, of course, there are areas of development and areas of proficiency. One area I recall several years ago (too long ago so I won’t mention how many years ago it was!) was a conversation that went like this: “Neil, last year at ACC, we had the lowest numbers in terms of booth traffic, message retention questions, material pick-ups, opt-ins for more information, etc. For next year, we have to see better.” The fact that my company spent well over 6 figures on the booth, with great coffee, a smoothie machine and thick pile carpet as well as half the budget for the booth on visual tactics, he felt it must be my fault the numbers were down. Large budget must mean booth traffic and message retention, right? Wrong!

Here is how all marketing teams can do better and maximize on the huge investment your company is making at your next conference: have a booth traffic strategy. Yes, you can have a booth strategy that goes beyond pre-con meetings telling the teams what to say and when to be at the booth. It’s about designing a booth with my 3-tier approach to maximize on having the right people visiting the booth, talking to the right people and seeing the most valuable booth visual tactics. Why is it that I see conference attendees loitering in your booth next to a high-budget interactive touch-wall containing the most important content to convey to attendees? Its because there is no strategy! Try this out for your next booth:

  1. Stage 1: Outside of the booth, talk to folks as they walk by. Here you will have an attract loop of your MoA, for example, or other eye-candy. Maybe some stop and chat. If during the chat they seem interested, invite them in for a coffee and hand them off to the next tier of assets and people (higher budget tactics, more senior sales people or MSL’s)
  2. Stage 2: Inside the booth, the attendee is now engaged in a conversation. They grabbed a coffee. You know they are from a key institution, for example, and you walk them through the iPad interactive experience that shows the mechanism of action of your brand or perhaps tells the science story in an engaging, interactive way. They seem very interested, asking a ton of questions. You ask them if they would like to check out the Augmented Reality experience (that your company has invested in) to put it all together.
  3. Stage 3: You walk them over to the AR experience where a senior brand or sales person is hanging out. At this point you have accomplished EXACTLY what is every conference planning team’s dream: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE, IN THE RIGHT SPOTS OF THE BOOTH, TALKING TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

No more senior folks talking to someone who just wants a coffee or charging station. No more people just walking by to try out the cool looking AR experience while a prospect walks on by because someone is hanging out playing with it. I am certainly not suggesting that having attendees hanging out, chatting about baseball or their last vacation is a bad thing – it’s not. It’s awesome actually, but if executed properly, in a well thought out both design and with a booth strategy, you get the most engaged, important people to step through your “booth story” to gain the full experience you heavily invested in.

After my gray hair-causing booth mistakes, I have since moved on to the agency side, assisting companies with their booth strategies and what would be the best visual elements to add to tell the story. I wish I had someone to tell me these things back then! Lessons learned.

Guest blog post by Neil Gottlieb, SVP, Strategy & Business Development at 3FX, Inc.

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