Challenging economic times are a powerful motivator for change, and the recent downturn has given birth to a reinvention revolution.  Virtually every client I work with is looking for some way to change up the next meeting or event, that next BIG IDEA.  The only consistent element around this trend is that every show organizer has their own interpretation of what reinvention means.

Reinvention can be cosmetic – changing the look, feel, even the floor plan layout to create buzz and update the show; possibly adding features or technology that appeal to those elusive millennials.  It can also mean expanding the scope through co-location with another show, or by adding a virtual event to extend the life of a meeting.  And, in some outlier examples, reinvention has meant “blowing up” past practices and changing the entire focus of a show in response to industry changes or pressures.

If you are pondering reinvention, remember to take a hard look at the real versus perceived value of any changes.  If you aren’t already doing so, you should be surveying exhibitors, attendees and potential attendees in some fashion every show.  Trends are changing too fast to depend upon old or anecdotal data.  Input from exhibitor advisory committees can also drive meaningful change, provided the committee represents a cross-section of exhibitors, versus having a more political or honorary makeup.  Engage your service partners (like GES) to give you feedback on what they see and hear, both at your shows and at others.

Do you know the shopping habits of your attendees?  How much time are they spending on the show floor?  Are they pre-planning their visits to target certain booths or product categories?  Are they using a matchmaking service or mobile application if they are offered?  Do international attendees have different needs?  Do the patterns change when your exhibition moves to a new city or venue?  What kind of purchasing power are they bringing to your event?  Have the demographics of your meeting visitors changed?

Ultimately, the only valid driver of reinvention is to create value, making it easier for potential attendees and exhibitors to sell their participation in your exhibition or event to their management.  ROI measurement is critical for all of your audiences; and if attendees are funding their own participation or making choices regarding the events they visit, ROE (Return on Experience—that’s the fun part of the meeting) may also come into play. 

So the next time you are tempted to offer elephant rides or design rotating neon aisle signs, take a step back and ask yourself what audience is gaining the value from your investment—bells and whistles might only make noise.  Change for the proverbial sake of change can be costly and misdirected; real reinvention will extend the life and breadth of your event.