Need to lift declining attendance at a regional or local tradeshow? You might take a tip or two from what Jill Harrison, the Manager of Public Relations and Image Development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce did.
When I asked for stories in a HARO request last year, Jill chimed in with a great story on how they brought more people to the show – and kept the buzz going during the event for attendees and those that couldn’t be there in person. Let’s let her tell it:
Here at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, we use social media heavily for our twice annual tradeshow called SchmoozaPalooza. There are two main ways we use it: 1) to drive event attendance and 2) to update followers during the actual event.
Our event, called “Business After Hours”, had declining attendance. We decided to re-brand it (and call it SchmoozaPalooza) and spread the word in a new way – through social media. We set up profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace and Facebook. We started by attracting “friends” before we tried to sell or promote anything. We figured out what our followers were interested in, and informed them on a variety of events, not just about SchmoozaPalooza. This helped us build credibility. After a period of time, we began to promote SchmoozaPalooza. The closer to the event we got, the more we promoted it. By the time the event drew near, we had 102 followers on Twitter, 441 friends on Linkedin, 209 friends on Plaxo, 117 friends on MySpace, and 568 friends on Facebook.
During the actual event, we encouraged our attendees to “tweet” what they were doing, what was happening and what they thought. A large TV screen in the front and back of the event showed the scrolling “tweets” to passersby.
After the event when we did our evaluation, we saw that attendance had nearly quadrupled – from 200 to 725. Our revenue doubled. The best part is that we can utilize these friend groups in the future. Social media helped us reach a whole new audience.
Certainly using Social Media to draw more visitors to an event can be done – but it doesn’t happen over night and it does take planning and execution.
I like that Jill and her team had a plan and spent some time building credibility before they started to promote SchmoozaPalooza, then built on the promotions as they got closer. I disagree with Seth Godin’s take that putting up a tradeshow booth is an event and not a process. Getting people to your show or to your booth is an ongoing process that goes from show to show and builds on past experiences and promotions.
For your next tradeshow (whether you’re organizing the show or just putting up a booth at the show), take a hard look at Social Media and see what it can do for you. Learn from other experiences and look to create your own experiences. Then build on them.