SEP 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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Page 24 of 67

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 25 The digital age has touched every business, including the large-events market. But that's not the only thing that has transformed the trade show experience and what attendees can expect. Even though the most important factor is always going to be showcasing the services and products of the vendors, an element of fun has become a key part of today's trade shows and expo events, reveal- ing how interactive games and adventures can make events truly come alive for attendees, no matter what the business focus. Allowing people to become part of the show and upping the ante in other ways is driving people to flock to these Southern shows and expos. Impact of Innovative Technology "If I had to say one thing about how trade shows and expo events are changing with innovative technology, it would be that everyone has an app," said Van Silliman, destination sales execu- tive for The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. "Attendees can register, sign up for educational sessions, get real-time announcements about the show and even ask questions." Fun, interactive technological elements are be- coming increasingly mainstream for trade shows and expo events, with attendees expecting digital flair at events. "I recently saw an iPad Robot that was being controlled by an associate out of the group's home office in Canada. You could talk to it, ask questions, get directions," said Silliman. "It was a good information source as well as an interesting novelty item." Ava Pope, director of sales for the Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, agrees that technology is the number one element that's transforming trade and expo shows. "A lot of trade shows/booths have a huge digital compo- nent and interactive element to attract attendees," she said. "Everyone's on their smartphones with lots of interactive apps," said Patty Kieffer, CASE, national sales manager for Visit Mobile. Because of that, "everything is more up to date: room changes, pick-up locations. Attendees are more engaged in sessions, too. They can send a ques- tion to the moderator and that person can engage with the audience. It allows for instant reactions." New Forms of Networking It's not just technology that plays a role in the transformation of trade shows and expos. Other emerging trends are "networking pre- and post- show and huge giveaways such as trips and one- year leases on cars," Pope said. "We're seeing a couple of trends to watch in the retail industry," said Judy Payne, director of meetings and travel for Grapevine, Texas-based GameStop, a leader in the gaming retail industry. "The first: we have a growing number of vendors that are merging which means less exhibitors for us. We're looking for new vendors to properly fill these gaps to keep our show floor growing year after year. The second trend is some vendors are trying to reduce overall costs. This means creating new options for these vendors that have ample exposure but reduce their overall spending at the event. Creativity is essential for a success- ful meeting planner!" At the Mobile Boat Show, gone are the days of traditional seminars in which the audience ► FEATURE: TRADE SHOWS & EXPO HALLS Crazy Costumes, Interactive Exhibits & Games, Oh My! Today's Trade Shows Are Trendy & Fun With the soaring popularity of comic cons and other fun role-playing events, costumes and interactive adventures are becoming a major part of today's trade shows. And it's not just anime extrava- ganzas getting in on the fun. Dazzling Mardi Gras costumes have always been a magical part of the festivities in Mobile with year-round celebrations. And the destination has incorporated them into the trade shows that make Mobile their host city. In addition, Mobile offers fun, inter- active games such as scavenger hunts along the Oyster Trail and geocaching, says Patty Kieffer, CASE, senior national sales manager for Visit Mobile: "Every- body's welcome to dig in deep and dis- cover the slow, secret spots of Mobile." Have you ever seen a skiing squirrel? Well, that's just one of the fun, extraor- dinary interactive elements you can find, depending on the year, at the Mobile Boat Show. Other inter- active elements, accord- ing to Miller, include natural touch tanks with local sea life such as sea horses, shrimp and sting rays from the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, as well as a pool equipped with a kayak and paddleboard for participants to try. Quest Con is coming to Mobile in March 2018 at the waterfront Mobile Convention Center and it will definitely include over-the-top costumes and fun for the whole family with all kinds of gaming opportunities, Kieffer said. n Natural touch tanks at the Mobile (Ala.) Boat Show GameStop Expos include costumes and gamification.

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