Last week, I spoke about a really bad conference experience I had from a sponsorship perspective. It was probably worsened because, for the three days prior, I had been at GO WEST 2020 where I was blown away. (This is a must-attend conference for anyone who stages events, festivals, or conferences—amazing!) That probably made the digital conference experience even worse.
Let me tell you about the GO WEST experience. With dozens of partners and sponsors engaged and activating, the conference delivered a huge WOW factor. Understand though, this type of conference has to do that. It is the showcase of the industry. It is the vehicle for innovative ideas and new concepts. The partners all tried to outdo each other and that is what made the experience so amazing. In addition to the event “experience,” there was learning from the vast array of main stage speakers and breakout sessions. To top it all off, the trade show exhibit and networking provided great interactions. There were no “traditional booths” where the exhibitors just had a table, a banner, and a person standing at the back waiting for people to enter their space. (OK, there were a few of those, but not many.) There were interactive booths with food sampling, contesting, activities, and engagement. It was fantastic!
Here were some of the experiences.
- On the opening evening, four venues (Courtyard Marriott, Westin, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Ike Janacek and his team at the Chateau Lacombe) put on fabulous culinary experiences. These were perfect opportunities to showcase their venues and culinary talents.
- The breakout rooms were more than the traditional half-rounds or theatre style. They were staged by professional design and AV companies. I delivered a breakout session in the “The Playground,” which had participants sitting in swings, at picnic tables, and in a ball pit. It truly showed the talents of the FMAV and OneWest Event Design and Logistics.
- During the exhibitor showcase (trade show), the booths were almost all interactive. Those that were not didn’t do so well.
- Rather than the typical sit-down lunch for 500 people, there were food trucks. The event organizers, Timewise Event Management arranged for a series of food trucks to be inside the Edmonton Convention Centre in a ballroom. This was a terrific opportunity to showcase a concept, create some excitement, and avoid having to go outside in minus 40-degree Edmonton to grab a food truck lunch.
- The reception at the end of day 1 transformed a lobby area into a cornucopia of culinary delights. Many people commented how they were surprised that this was just a “hallway” that had been redone and staged—not a ballroom.
This conference truly delivered what it was supposed to. There was lots of professional development learning, lots of experiences and innovations, happy delegates who went away with terrific value, and of course, sponsors and partners who showcased, put their best foot forward, and yielded terrific ROI on their investment.
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