Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

How 2 Activate Your Venture at a Live Event

How 2 Activate Your Venture at a Live Event with Joe Lovett and Jessica Peterson

At a recent How 2 Tuesday, Joe Lovett and Jessica Peterson of Cramer, a brand experience agency, shared how to stand out in an expo environment. Joe is Cramer’s Director of Strategic Planning and Jessica is a Strategic Planner. They aim to clarify the brand’s voice and create a plan to appeal to customers.

Participating in expos is a great way to get in front of the right audience, so big companies invest millions of dollars into their booths to entice people to stop by. Your booth must get people excited to come over and learn about your company. Your goals for the event should be to draw, engage, and close customers. Joe and Jessica categorize visitors to these events as waders, swimmers, or divers. Waders try to avoid engagement, potentially because they don’t know much about your industry. Swimmers are more educated about your industry or competitors, so they may be interested in coming over to speak with you. Divers have heard of you and may come to your booth with specific questions. Think about your message and how you will engage waders, swimmers, and divers. Try to get people interested in approaching your booth even if they don’t know you or your industry.

Your brand tone is influenced by the environment that people see- your clothing and booth design should be cohesive. Your attire should align with your brand, so be sure to look the part. Be conscious of your body language. Smile to make people feel welcome, have a firm handshake, keep eye contact, and avoid leaning on your booth or folding your arms. Actively listen to visitors to figure out their challenges and provide strategies offered by your business.

To draw people into your booth, consider using participant design- asking a question and having visitors record an answer. This is also a great way to gather customer feedback. Another option is informative art. Figure out how to translate your message in an artistic or visually stimulating way. Infographics are helpful in communicating statistics. You could also bring a pain point to life and show what the world would look like without your product. What challenge would they be facing?

To engage people once you’ve drawn them to your booth, you could show them a short explanation video on a tablet or laptop with headphones. Videos are a great way to demonstrate your product and allow you to engage new visitors while you are busy talking to other people. Competitive online games and quizzes can be used for the same purpose. Interactive installations and art pieces are great for engaging visitors and gathering customer feedback. You can use data visualizations to share information about your company or industry. Your company will be even more memorable if you can evoke an emotion from the visitors.

Finally, prepare for the close. When you are ready to wrap up the conversation, adjust your wording based on your level of interest in working with the person. If you want to stay in touch, say “It sounds like we may be able to work together. Do you have a business card so I can follow up?” If you are not interested, say “It doesn’t look like we have a solution that will address your concerns, but thank you for stopping by.” If the conversation is going on too long, you could say “These are great questions and I want to follow up. Can I send you more information?” or “I need to get back to working the booth, would you like to come back later?” It’s important to talk to as many people as possible at these events, so be conscious of the length of each conversation you have.

Consider offering discounts to encourage people to try your product. Collect contact information digitally using a Google Form on a tablet. Follow up on leads as soon as possible to show your interest in them. Bring plenty of business cards- they are inexpensive yet essential!

After the event, reflect on what went well and what could be improved for next time. If a lot of people came to your booth but didn’t seem very engaged, perhaps you had a good draw but your engagement needs refinement. If very few people came over but they all thought your booth was amazing, work on your draw for next time. Even if it was a successful day, things can always be improved upon and optimized.

Joe and Jessica then shared a few helpful resources and mentioned that there are a plethora of similar businesses in each category- these are just a few well-known examples.

Helpful resources:

Moovely- Animated videos

Google Forms- Information collection

VistaPrint- Business cards

FedEx Kinko’s- High-quality prints

MegaPrint- Large printing

Container Store and Ikea- Displays and furniture

Piktochart- Infographics

Kahoot- Online quizzes

Toward the end of the presentation, Joe and Jessica had the audience determine key aspects of their own businesses that they should convey at an expo. The audience was encouraged to specify their company’s tone/theme, their customer’s top 3 problems, and their company’s top 3 features/benefits. This exercise is helpful when determining the key differentiators to emphasize about your business at a live event.

We hope that you are able to use one or more strategies to draw, engage, and close visitors at your next expo!