We all know the term “cream of the crop.” Well, this post churns my top observations at the World Expo in Shanghai, ages them for 10 months and turns them into the finest Smoked Gouda (or cheddar) you’ve ever tasted! The World Expo in Shanghai, China ran for six months and ended last fall with more than 70 million attendees (a new world record). 

Here are the six unique lessons I learned for exhibit and event marketers:

1. Parallels and Lateral thinking: Stop digging for new ideas in the same places! Put down your shovel, use some lateral thinking and explore a parallel industry! The World Expo and other large public events are fantastic opportunities to see what’s hot, what’s not and why. Tour a new museum, attend a fashion show in Manhattan or even visit a state fair. These venues are full of peripheral experiences that engage attendees beyond the main event. You’ll be amazed at what draws people in and what keeps them away, no matter how big their budget. Here’s my day one diary.

2. Beyond all expectations:  Just when I thought things at the World Expo were incredible-they got better and better. One of  the simplest things that surprised me was how the enormous expo grounds transform  themselves overnight. The simplest pavilions used lighting, audio and live attractions to  basically create two different experiences (one for day and one for night). Exhibitors can do the  same thing. Use darkened spaces with accent lighting to highlight your offerings in a new way. Here’s my day two diary.

3. The power of live performance:  Granted, many exhibition spaces prohibit live performance, but the World Expo showcased  some of the best strategically placed live performance I’ve ever seen.  Whether it was to drive  people into a pavilion or to tell an unforgettable story as a main attraction, the power of live  performance is undeniable.  Watching the unexpected live engages and engrains the memory.  Some pavilions did this every 30 minutes for 183 days straight. Here’s my day three diary.

4. Simple technology:  Understated elegance and simplicity are the keys to making technology work for you on the  show floor. What’s worse than having to spend 10 minutes showing someone how to use your in-booth interactive? Designing a gorgeous interface and creating an easy-to-use technology experience is a beautiful thing. Look at the iPAD. Some people love it and others hate it. It doesn’t connect with everything and it’s not so great for measurement- but it’s cool! The World Expo taught me that if you can communicate with any language, any culture and get them all to see and experience the same message with your technology- you’ve won. Here’s my day four diary.

5. Mashing: Most pavilions at the World Expo separated their past, present and future into neat, orderly exhibits. Many also separated their gift shops, restaurants and their lounge areas. Belgium was different-they seem to combine everything into one experience mashed together. It was all one country and one experience and best of all- it worked. As an exhibitor why must we separate conferencing, demo stations and hospitality areas? The answer-you don’t. Here’s my day five diary.

6. Profiling the face to face experience: The term “Brand Ambassadors” is nothing new to our industry, but my experience in the Siemens pavilion was nothing short of amazing. Rather than keep you reading a post that’s too long, I invite you to click here to learn more about that amazing event. Thank you Siemens! Here’s my day six diary.

Would you like to learn more takeaways from my experience? Listen to my recorded webinar here!