How to Create a Successful Experiential Event Without the Hassle

With over a 70% success rate, experiential events are taking the exhibition world by storm. The problem is that experiential experiences can be a tricky process to get right. So how do you remove the hassle from creating the perfect experience for your brand?

Why does experiential work?

Many experiential events work because they provide experiences built around stories. Why these stories matter is because they are what people react too. The world we live in is built on stories and people are almost hard-wired to respond to them. Making adding them to an experience aimed at people a natural fit.

What is also different today is the ability to deliver these stories. Technology now allows brands to develop engaging and immersive experiences on a cost-effective scale. These new affordable resources mean you can create experiences that genuinely consume audiences, transporting them wherever you want them to be.

An example of just how effective this is can be found with HBO’s Westworld activation at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

HBO recreated complete sections of the sci-fi TV series in the heart of Austin. The difference is this was not a static museum piece to be viewed it was a living and breathing world. Using a host of actors, scriptwriters and special effects to transport anyone who entered into the world of the show entirely.

What examples like this show is how powerful experiential can be. It can affect people on personal levels, take them to new worlds, or let them become someone else. All of which helps build lifelong memories all associated with your brand.

How do I make experiential work for my brand?

In its most basic form experiential is just a way of telling people about your brand in a way they will remember. Why experiential works over other techniques is that it plays to how people work, but why?

According to Dale’s Cone of Experience, people remember only 10% of what they read, but they remember 90% of what they do as part of a ‘direct purposeful experience’.

This had led many companies to come up with very elaborate and exciting experiences. Though not every company has these levels of budget. Can these smaller companies benefit from experiential?

The answer is yes and below are some simple and cost-effective experiential approaches any company can put their own spin on to make work for their brand.

Expect The Unexpected Experience

If everyone is expecting to see you and your competitors at an event then maybe it is time to be somewhere else. Consider where else you can engage with your customers.

Is there a coffee bar that they are stopping at on the way there or a hotel where delegates are staying? If so, maybe there is an opportunity to engage with them in these locations away from the hustle and bustle of the actual event. In doing this you can capture them with their guard down and more open to engaging ideas.

The key is to keep it simple and fun and never be pushy as this is their space. So ideas such as providing muffins or cookies, etc. to attendees picking up their coffees on the way can give you an opportunity to put your brand in front of them. You can then use this opportunity to tell them where you are inside the event and see if they want to drop by for more of chat

Hit The Lobby

If you know attendees are staying at a particular hotel why not target them there as well. Again the thing to remember is in these environments you have to tread carefully.

With this in mind, you can still create brand experiences that work. Like providing guests with hotel survival packs, that contain branded items that help them make their time away from home more comfortable. How this differs from a traditional goody bag is by the imagination that you put into the items included.

Anyone can provide them toiletries, but can you give them a taste of home or an experience they can enjoy. A kit for making better coffee for their morning pick me up, or something to keep them entertained after the event.

Experiential Take Away

Creating a live experience at the event might be beyond your budget, so how about one they can take home.

Provide attendees with a branded experience that links them to your brand or product. It should be something they can experience, maybe a game they can play with their family. Again this has to be more than simple samples, you need to think of things they will interact with like a family cookie baking kit or similar.

The activity will involve them using your kit and you could even create a tutorial video they need to give their email to view. So that you are creating a lead capture tool in a friendly and unassuming way where they feel comfortable sharing their details with you.

In taking this approach you lead generation tool removes any concerns over risk or commitment from them and provides them with a friendly touchpoint for your brand.

Experiential Hijack

Another way to benefit from experiential is to play with someone else’s experience. Zappo’s cupcakes did this in a truly ingenious way by targeting a Google cupcake giveaway, where they set up opposite and tempted people to then give them their cupcakes in return for ‘happiness’. For the brave souls who gave up their cupcakes, they ended up receiving a Google product in return. Meaning Zappo’s got the same coverage and brand awareness as a Google event without being Google.

In reality, not everyone can give away this level of products, but you can be as playful. For example, if a stand is giving away coffee you can give away cookies to help them enjoy the coffee a bit more. If a stand has an experience where attendees get wet or dishevelled you could be on hand with towels or a hairdryer station to help people freshen up.

The key is to make sure you are playful with your idea so that the company providing the initial experience can play along rather than feel like you are stepping on their toes. You can even be proactive and speak to these larger companies in advance of the event to see what opportunities there are for you to work together and where you can add further elements to their experiences.

Simple and Fun

Memorable does not mean vast and expensive. It means memorable, by which your audience has an experience they did not expect and will remember.

Meaning with the right ideas you can create experiential experiences on any budget. Just look at the Barbie selfie booth at Brand Licensing Europe 2017.

Barbie Selfie Stand

This booth was a huge success where people queued for the opportunity to have their picture taken in what is really a cardboard box. The idea to make the box a recreation of Barbie packaging is uncomplicated and cheap, but wonderfully imaginative and effective.

Old School Experiences

Other cost-effective and straightforward experiential solutions are experiences that have been used for a long time and still work. Tried and tested experiences such as lucky dips and tombola’s and similar where people get to just have fun can work extremely well. Solutions such as these are great for companies on limited budgets as you are creating very quick but effective breaks in your audiences event journey. Spaces where they can have a rest a bit of fun and then carry on.

Removing the Hassle

Ultimately, removing the hassle is about being imaginative and retaining a sense of fun or the unexpected. If customers can experience these then the budget is secondary.

Not everyone at an exhibition is expecting a million pound stand, but they are expecting people to try and sell to them. So by being more imaginative and providing them with something unexpected or fun you will get their attention. Ultimately this is all you are there to do and it’s what experiential if done well on any budget helps you achieve.

How to Get Started with Experiential

The best way to start building your experiential experience is to speak to your preferred exhibition stand designers or event company and discuss your options. They will understand the needs of the event you are attending and will be able to advise you on how to bring your concept to life.

They will also have experience of what types of experiences work and how best to achieve them without breaking the bank. Then it is about working them to find the right concept for your brand.

Author Bio

Stephen Lindsay has been in the exhibition industry for over 40 years starting on the shop floor to working his way up to Production Manager. He joined DMN Design Build in 2004 as Projects Director. He specialising in experiential marketing, exhibition stand design, exhibition services in London and much more. His responsibilities are to oversee the smooth transition of all projects from sales into production.