Should you have concurrent educational sessions during exhibition hours, or separate dedicated hours for each? Is your event a conference and exhibition, or an exhibition and conference? There is a big difference—especially for shows under 5,000 attendees.
I’ve managed (and attended) shows using both models. After seeing both in action, I think time should be dedicated to either education or to the exhibit floor, not both.
Why holding massive educational offerings at the same time as the exhibit hours is bad:
1. It’s horrible to watch attendees and buyers come through every hour and a half for 15 minutes on the exhibit floor (unless they are two floors or more away, in which case they might not come at all!) before they rush off for the next educational offering.
“I remember one show where the exhibitors held a pick-up game of nerf football in the main aisle while all the attendees were in class.”
Exhibitors stand around until the end of the day when there’s usually some kind of reception meant to bring the attendees back onto the show floor—but not to visit booths.
I remember one show where the exhibitors held a pick-up game of nerf football in the main aisle while all the attendees were in class. They actually had it as part of their booth display, knowing the hall would be empty for hours.
2. Would you want to hang out for eight hours to have (essentially) three hours of face time with buyers?
3. Visitors are conflicted: Do they see what’s new on the show floor or receive top-notch education?
Why it’s better to have dedicated hours for each:
1. The show floor will be busier.
2. Exhibitors can use the morning or afternoon to work from their hotel rooms, sleep or see clients not attending your show.
3. Exhibitors will thank you. I promise. Even with fewer show hours. Really.
4. Visitors will have time to shop the show floor instead of breezing in and out between educational sessions. Therefore, they’ll spend more money, making your exhibitors happy.
5. Visitors won’t feel torn between getting the education they need and seeing the new stuff exhibited.