According to industry organizations, approximately 90 million people attend as many as 300,000 conventions, conferences and trade shows in the U.S. every year. It’s probably safe to say that most of those folks are not interested in the limbo contests and the free flash drives. So why are they there? One of the most common reasons can be boiled down to two simple words – to learn.

Attendees travel to these events to learn about new products, compare competing products, investigate new trends in their industries, and learn who the opinion leaders are in the space at that moment. After you pay for the flight, hotel, the registration fee and incidentals, you have probably sunk $2,500 or more into a conference long before the first business card gets exchanged. So there’s no doubt people spend significant money to show up at these events.

Now that they are on the floor with their name tags carefully affixed, how do you as a business get and hold their attention? Go interactive. If you’re a content marketer, you already know that distributing relevant and valuable content is the way to influence consumer behavior. The problem is, every one of the other 500 businesses at your show knows this too. To stand out, you’ve got to make it fun and memorable, while at the same time making it educational. Here are a few ideas on how you can incorporate interactive content at your next convention:

Roll Out a Mobile App

The number of possibilities available to you with a custom mobile app is limited only by your imagination. Think of event attendees. They are already glued to their phones, so take advantage. Your app can house several different types of interactive content including quizzes, scanning ability, infographic-style imagery and communication. But, take it a step further while at your events. Implement iBeacon technology that will allow your mobile app to understand the attendees position on a micro-scale and deliver content to those individuals based on their location.

Virtual/Augmented Reality

Nearly everyone has heard of it, but very few have truly had the experience. This will likely change over time, so strike now. Consider offering a full VR/AR immersion at your booth. The virtual worlds attendees get to visit must be tied somehow to your brand but consider how many people will line up to participate. You can chat them up while waiting in line, and if you scan their badges for entry, then you have that information as well. This would work particularly well if you are selling products or services that can’t be used in a convention hall (like hang gliders, autos, shotguns, roller coasters, etc.)

You can also conduct virtual tours of college campuses, planned communities, and travel destinations anywhere in the world. Augmented reality can be equally compelling. Imagine if your trade show booth could move – do you think that would get you some extra traffic? It sure would. Attendees can aim an iPad at your booth art and experience falling snow, blooming flowers, flying birds, or your product being used.

See different models wearing seasonal outfits, or you wearing the same outfits! Ever want to know exactly how to put together a piece of furniture? Aim your phone at that dresser and watch a factory tech person do just that. You can embed any product with a link to play a 3D video. VR and AR give an opportunity to bring your product to life with interactive content.

Interactive Giveaways

I really believe marketers have been missing a golden opportunity for years with trade show booth giveaways. Koozies? Pens? Bottle openers? These make mouse pads look like renaissance art. Because the bar has been set pretty low for so long, you can look like a total marketing genius with a little thought and inspiration. Photo booths can be a fun ice-breaker and can be the basis for social media engagement (and is a good email collection technique.) Prize wheels are cheesy, but in a fun way.

Simple Twitter contests where participants can win a prize by tweeting something about #yourcompany gets people talking. What about renting an old school stand-up video game console for visitors to play? As mentioned earlier – everyone will be staring at their devices when they’re not chitchatting. Since all of these folks will be draining their batteries, why not set up a wireless charging station? These may not always be the fastest way to recharge phones, but.…. this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’d like a chance to talk. How about a button maker that will jazz up their stylish lanyards with snarky industry sayings or titles? Humor works, people!

Make the Most of Social

Conventions don’t just take place in the convention center. They take place on social media as well. You can make the most of these events on social by having a plan from the start and engaging aggressively on social during the convention. Here are some quick suggestions for making the most out of social:

  • Invite influencers to attend and post.
  • Publish real-time on your own platforms (and use relevant hashtags and mentions).
  • Entice guests to post.
  • Engage the online community (comment on other attendees posts about the event and follow them).
  • Live broadcast the right way.

Interactive Kiosks

This could encompass many different things, such as having touchscreens to conduct short surveys (while generating leads), demonstrate new products, or request free samples. How about making your star CEO available via Twitter or live video feed to answer product questions a couple of times each day during the event? Take an infographic, for example. You traditionally present data as a flat image. Now crank it up with an interactive flowchart infographic using a visual kiosk at your booth. Tie the flowchart questions into your content and use infographic-style creative throughout their journey on your kiosk.

When it comes to interactive content during your next event, give attendees an experience to talk about. Even if it’s brief, a multi-sensory experience will stay with them long after they’ve left the hall. And that’s what you want.

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