By: Clay A. Lundquist

This past week I spent time at the national convention of one of our clients. This is an event that everyone connected to the company looks forward to. It’s a chance to see new things, try new products, meet new people, and reconnect with friends and colleagues. This year, as always, the convention was very large with lots to see. Just walking the floor took at a day, if not two.

As with all convention centers, many vendors and suppliers were onsite showing off their wares. Some had huge areas while others had small, basic setups. Many times this depends on your financial situation. Exhibits and convention center fees are notoriously expensive, but one thing I noticed this time was that even some of the biggest companies in attendance opted to go somewhat smaller. This has been a trend I have noticed recently not only at conventions, but with all types of events. For years bigger was better. First it started with huge tents, then expandable trailers, and then just one wasn’t enough and brands started creating huge areas with multiple assets to display. The problem was that most of these areas didn’t really show us much. I can’t tell you how many $100,000-plus trailers I’ve walked into that have a video game system and a few monitors or graphics. Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t some great examples out there, but the bad seem to outweigh the good.

Whether it’s due to budget or just a realization that less is more, some brands have been contracting their footprints resulting in a cleaner, more patron-friendly environment. Do you really need a 52-foot trailer to get your point across, or can you do it in a 20×20 area? Unless you are telling the timeline of your 100-year-old company or focusing on several products, I’m betting the latter will work out just fine. This also allows you to be more focused in the messaging. For me, I don’t like to put out more than a couple of different messages in a single activation area. If your primary focus is name generation, you may want a fun activity to go along with it so you don’t look too stuffy and that you only want to take something from consumers. If your primary focus is sampling, then possibly you have some other brand messaging or takeaway information so consumers have a something to look at long after the sample is gone. Best of all, this can be done in small areas and for a more minimal investment. Lastly, remember your staff is the most important part of your activation. Having the right staff can have way more of an impact that the biggest most baddass marketing vehicle or setup.