If there was an event planning complexity scale, trade shows would be on the top. With multilayered logistics and countless aspects to consider, this type of event can easily classify as one of most difficult to plan and run.
Apart from attracting the right exhibitors, scheduling meaningful meetings between the offer and demand, and promoting the event itself, you also must design valuable knowledge sessions that will give your attendees fresh insights and information.
Not a difficult task to accomplish if we’re talking about a conference, where the knowledge session is the core of the experience.
However, we’re talking about trade shows here, and most of the time, organizers ignore this part and focus mostly on the networking between the exhibitors and visitors.
Not the right approach, if you ask me.
Obviously, people do attend trade shows to see what’s new on the market and build important connections that hopefully will sprout into fruitful business relationships.
However, trade shows are also a great opportunity to set the ground for industry-shifting sessions that will gather like-minded people and acquire new information that is not yet available to anyone else in the sector.
In other words, by planning powerful knowledge sessions at your trade show, you’ll not only attract important names and industry references, but also (if done correctly) set new standards and even transform your event into a thought leadership platform.
Do you want to miss that?
I’m guessing not.
So what should you consider when planning a knowledge session at your trade show?
Here’s a short list of things you’ll want to know and do:
Plan simultaneous sessions
Trade shows are massive by default. Multiple visitors and guests are in attendance, and there are plenty of things going on. Moreover, thematically, trade shows are always rich in different categories.
If, for example, you’re running a trade show about smart cities, you’ll probably touch on aspects such as transportation, technology, co-participative democracy, city management, etc.
Considering this particular aspect of trade shows, why not take good advantage of it and set up simultaneous knowledge sessions? This way, your attendees can create their own agenda based on their interests.
Invite the right speakers
This goes without saying; however, it’s important to remember that a knowledge session is not a boring class. On the contrary, it’s a dynamic based on adding immense value to your attendees.
So make sure you’ll be inviting the right people who can share their experience and knowledge. Obviously, you don’t have to invite the industry stars, but you will want to find speakers who actually have something valuable to say.
How can you select high-quality speakers?
Reach out to industry representatives for references. Check industry leaders’ online content and audiences.
- What are they talking about?
- Are they adding value to their followers?
- Are they providing worthwhile information?
The answers to these questions will help you determine the quality of the people you’ll be inviting to speak at your trade show.
Grant access based on attendee type
Know that not all visitors will be interested in attending the knowledge sessions. Conversely, you don’t want to give all the trade show attendees free range to all sessions.
Think about the thousands of guests you’ll get visiting the stands on a daily basis. If you’ll grant them all access, you might end up having a serious logistic problem regarding the venue capacity.
To keep this from happening, you’ll want to control the knowledge session attendee flow, which you can do by creating different attendee types.
For example, you can grant trade show visitors access to the exhibitors’ booth. You can also have guests who, for an additional fee, can attend the knowledge sessions. Not all people will be willing to pay to attend those sessions, which means they’ll only be able to visit the stands.
On the other hand, those who are really interested in obtaining new insights from industry thought leaders will have no problem paying for access.
It's more than just a knowledge session
Don’t plan knowledge sessions at your trade shows just because other planners do or because they’re a good way to attract more attendees.
On the contrary, if these are your motivations, then just focus on the networking dynamics of your event.
But if your intention is to provide real value to your attendees and actually equip them with high-quality and cutting-edge insights that will move your industry forward, then dedicate the time and resources to design a series of knowledge sessions your attendees will remember.