A conference floor can often look and feel most exciting when delegates are out mingling and networking. When the noise of the crowd is most bubbly and engaging. For nearly every planner, seeing people connect is the moment you know all the hard work and effort has been worth it. You made those connections possible.
A big part of that is creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to step out of their comfort zone. And bringing in brands or partners to provide unique, engaging, on-floor experiences can be the perfect way to build that atmosphere.
But not all brand activations are created equal. Knowing what’s right for you, your event, and your delegates means that both you, and your partner, will get the most out of every effort.
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SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
We’ve all been there—everything’s been planned to perfection, and the minute you arrive on site, the wifi acts up, the A/V isn’t quite right, there’s an awkward question you didn’t expect, or there’s some other unpredictable hoop to jump through. It happens to the best of us.
So make sure you’ve walked through every activation step by step with your venue carefully, and make sure you have plans A, B, and C ready just in case. If there’s a kitchen set-up required, then be sure you’ve talked about when you can access the space, power requirements, available appliances, shipping and storage of product and any venue policies around food and beverage serving.
For example, at a recent convention that brought together public servants from across Canada, the organizers and venue partnered with local food and beverage producers to bring the flavours of the city to life for delegates. Partner chefs on site allowed the event planners to feature small, locally sourced meals. To extend the experience, activations could “behind the booth” with branded aprons to engage delegates. And since it’s always fun for delegates to get involved, and make a memory, incorporating the option to capture pictures while they’re enjoying the experience helps draw people in.
From live-streams to selfie stations, make sure to ask every question and work with your venue to identify all the things that could go wrong before they even have a chance to. No one has ever been sorry to have extra, portable wifi technology in their bag. Ever.
PEOPLE MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The best brand activations are often the ones that have an authentic quality to them. Where the people who are staffing them live and breathe the brand – it’s part of who they are. They aren’t there to “sell”, but just to get to know you and understand what you care about most.
Hiring or bringing the right people to an activation can make all the difference, so be sure to brief your team in advance, give them a chance to understand your goals and let them find a way to add in their own special touches (as long as they align with the brand!).
Don’t just send the first people you find, but carefully select the kind of outgoing, engaging people who draw others in and make them feel special. Sometimes all it takes are the right people to take an average idea and turn into something really outstanding.
Imagine, for instance, a “relaxation station” that doesn’t have the right kind of people behind the activation. A booth or experience that features a wellness area, massage chairs, or therapy dogs needs people who can communicate tranquility effectively, while still drawing people in. We’ve even used virtual reality to help build this kind of experience—participants could enjoy a sunny, relaxing waterfront hammock, all from the convention centre floor.
THE RIGHT ACTIVATION FOR THE RIGHT EVENT
Not every brand is right for every event. So be selective. If you’re hosting an event about emerging technology, a brand that sells paper-based products might not be the right fit. So consider all the angles when you’re reaching out to potential partners. Which brand is the perfect fit, and why?
How will it enhance the event experience?
Our best advice? Ask yourself how the values of the brand or partner align with the values of your delegates. If these values don’t overlap, you can bet it’s not the right fit.
Plus, there are opportunities to think differently and be more creative, to not only get a brand noticed, but also provide value or entertainment to a delegate. Work with the venue to find ways to stand out from the crowd and do something unexpected. Why not sponsor a bathroom or coat check, if it’s right for the brand or pushes creative boundaries?
For instance, if you’re hosting an event with an association of doctors, you could partner with a brand of healthy food products and create an experience that showcases convenient, healthy meal options for people on the go. Or, what about an event all about sports? Hosting a brand activation at the coat check all about the best energy drink to keep athletes powered up might be perfect.
Seasonality and geography can also make a big difference in the kind of activations or brands that might make sense for your event. For instance, featuring a cold beverage brand on a cold winter day could seem disconnected, and mean neither the event or the brand get the most out of the experience.
MAKE NOISE EARLY AND OFTEN
Finally, make sure that your brands and your event are building momentum and awareness in advance of the event, and on all your channels. Use every opportunity, from blogs to social platforms to earned media pitching to make a splash and get people talking about the brand and about the event.
Social channels in particular provide the opportunity to tell your story, draw attention and also, ideally, engage participants to help tell your story for you. Starting to use the event hashtag early is a great way to highlight specific unique activations and help expand reach.
Live-streaming brand activations can also be a great way to get delegates involved and excited, whether through social channels or other live-streaming platforms. For instance, event planners could do a “behind-the-scenes” Facebook Live post the day before an event, featuring the brand activations and interactive opportunities available to delegates. That kind of easy, fun social post can then be promoted using paid support, to make sure it gets as much reach as possible on the platform, and ideally, drive more traffic to the activations and brand experiences while the event unfolds.
Every event has memorable moments not only in sessions, but also outside them. And building memorable brand experiences into your next event can bring an event to life in truly interesting and engaging ways for delegates. Often, these brand experiences are the things that make it onto digital and social media, and attract attention from delegates, as well as their networks.
The most important thing event planners can remember when it comes to brand activations is that you can be the person to connect all the dots between brands and their ideas, and the venue and event itself. It’s not enough for a brand to simply put a logo on something and walk away. It’s creating those moments of surprise and delight for delegates that makes an experience, and an event, truly unique.