Thursday, March 9, 2017
Organizing an event open to the public requires a different overall strategy than trade-specific and B2B conferences or conventions. Attracting large crowds to a tradeshow on a topic that appeals to a wide range of people means focusing on the the 3Ps of an event: the product, the people and the positioning.
To delve deeper into what the 3Ps really entail, we sat down with Ms. Renée Frappier, professor and author in natural foods as well as cofounder of the Association Manger Santé Bio, and President of Expo Manger Santé et Vivre Vert, a tradeshow that has been held every year in the month of March for nearly 20 years and that opens its doors not just to specialists but the general public. The trade show features nearly 280 exhibitors during its two events: in Québec City from March 18 to 19 at the Québec City Convention Centre and in Montréal from March 24-26. The Québec City, in particular welcomes 10,000 people over two days alone.
Create the right ‘product fit’
“The idea came to me to develop a trade show that focused specifically on healthy lifestyles and natural and organic foods after observing a major upswing in the general population’s concern for their well-being,” explained Ms. Frappier.
“Think about different milestones in people’s lives. When they start having children, they always want to give their kids the very best in nutrition. As people grow older, they want to maintain their health and vitality for as long as possible. Healthy eating and active lifestyles have become top-of-mind for many people. That’s when I decided to create an event dedicated to plant-based and organic eating,” she said.
According to Ms. Frappier, creating a successful, open-to-the-public event means carefully doing your research to develop a concept that is on par with current, long-term trends and addresses the general public’s true concerns. “People will flock to an event that gives a 360-degree view of a topic, like healthy eating. Rather than present a program that is either too specific on one aspect of a subject or inaccessible to anyone else except experts or marginal interest groups, we democratized organic and green living thanks to the diversity of our exhibitors, speakers and activities we have highlighted over the years.”
Care for your people
Another key aspect to driving visitors to an event is taking care of the people, whether they be visitors, exhibitors, speakers and sponsors. “Visitors of all ages and different walks of life who want to learn more about plant-based and organic eating are eager to learn and enjoy discovering new products. They just don’t want to passively attend a tradeshow—they want to live an experience. That’s why the educational and tasting components of our event are so popular,” Ms. Frappier said.
“What’s more: we’re very selective as to the exhibitors and sponsors we allow at our trade show, basing our decision on the ingredients, methods and approaches they foster. This makes for a very high-quality selection of exhibitors that are aligned with our and our visitors’ values. That coherence makes a huge difference in our event’s credibility and lure,” she added.
Ms. Frappier also recommends that an event has to be a win-win situation for exhibitors and sponsors in particular. “Visitors at our events are engaged and spend a lot. We work closely with exhibitors and sponsors to increase their visibility and drive customers to their retail locations.”
Thanks to the trade show’s relentless commitment to working with only exhibitors and sponsors that adhere to the event’s overall philosophy and provide high-quality products, Ms. Frappier acknowledges that she has built partnerships that span the two decades. That is no small feat in the event world!
In order to increase attendance levels, the event’s positioning and visibility are key. “We’ve organized activities for all age groups and especially families with young children and teenagers. We’ve created quizzes and adapted both presentations and content for younger audiences, which means the whole family can enjoy the event.” Ms. Frappier also extended free entrance to kids 16 and younger. “The norm is oftentimes 12 years or less, but we wanted to address the needs of a growing clientele in healthy eating: teenagers.”
In addition, while in the past the tradeshow’s main clientele has been women, more and more men are showing up interested and engaged in the event. “Again, we adapt the content to appeal to both women and men.
Finally, Ms. Frappier agreed that she attributes a huge chunk of her budget—nearly 25%—to marketing. “You can’t adopt a ‘just build it and they will come’ attitude when it comes to attracting the masses to an event. You need to invest in advertising in daily and weekly newspapers, online advertising, social media, SEO-friendly content marketing and TV ads.” While radio ads didn’t afford the best bang for the buck for Ms. Frappier, some event organizers should also look into what results running ads on the airwaves can generate. “It’s all about delivering the right messages way in advance and making sure you are consistent in your marketing.” In a nutshell, without a good, end-to-end marketing strategy, there is no event.
Attracting the masses to an event does take a firm commitment in designing and marketing the right type of event that delivers value to the most people. “By remaining committed to your vision and values, planners can effectively attract more visitors and sponsorship dollars to their events,” she concluded.