Let’s review our last post: When we establish goals for our events, we set a high-level view of what we hope to accomplish. When we set goals for hybrid exhibiting, we tap into everything we know about both virtual and live events. These goals allow us to paint with broad brushstrokes what we hope are the results of our event participation and investment.
Objectives, on the other hand, give us the framework to determine whether or not we achieved these goals. For years, exhibit professionals have struggled with proving the worth of trade shows; the struggle has not only been setting and measuring objectives but also pushing against the perception that will not die: that trade shows are a boondoggle, a chance to travel to cool cities, and wine and dine on expense accounts. (Fortunately, many studies say that the pandemic has proved the business value of events. That’s a step in the right direction.)
Misperceptions and measuring live events are never-ending challenges. Now add a new measurement mandate: determine the return on investment for participating in a virtual event. At least for the foreseeable future, virtual events are components of hybrid events, and the task to prove the value of trade shows has just doubled.
“The minute we choose to measure something,” according to Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, “we are essentially choosing to aspire to it.” In other words, let’s flip the task of creating objectives from something that’s an assignment to a mission revealing our best hopes for our event participation.
How do we establish objectives to determine whether we have met our goals? If you’re wondering why this is so critical, consider that after a year without live trade shows, marketing budgets are being revisited and funds reallocated. We need to set and measure objectives to protect our budgets and our jobs.
Let’s take a trip in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and recall how we used to set objectives for live in-person events. The acronym SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based) is a good test for whether your objectives will “work.” Here are some sample marketing objectives that you might have set, say, two years ago for a live trade show:
- Build and design an exhibit for $350,000 that includes casual meeting areas and catering stands as well as product demo areas in our 30′ x 30′ space
- Engage 750 visitors with a virtual reality demonstration
- Collect 300 leads over three days of the show
- Identify 150 viable prospects from those leads
- Generate 10 press mentions stemming from our product launch
- Conduct 100 exit interviews with attendees
- Distribute 1,500 branded teddy bears
- Get at least one person from our engineering team on the speakers’ roster
- Add 500 followers to our Facebook page
- Close $X,XXX,XXX.XX in sales in six months that are a direct result of the trade show
Each objective listed above can be quantified. Each is realistic and time-based as well as specific. Determining how well you achieved each of these objectives—maybe you hit them exactly, fell a little short, or exceeded your own predictions—tells you if you accomplished your goals. You probably figured out that you define your goals before you set objectives to measure your success in achieving them, so why don’t we review the goals we suggested in our last post and develop some sample objectives that will help clarify the process?
“Management by objectives works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time, you don’t.” Peter Drucker
Goal: Take ownership of the hybrid experience.
- Negotiated price with show organizer to include all the elements that we want within our budget. (Spell out specific features you want from the organizers before you approach them.)
- Decide on meaningful sponsorship opportunities—not necessarily the ones on offer. (Figure out what exposure enhances your brand and work out the details with the organizers. How about something like a sanitation sponsorship?)
- Ask about what platform will be used for the virtual part, and reach out to the developers to see what is possible for you to do. (You’ll be surprised at how much support you will get from the platform developer!)
- Talk to organizers about their regulations for live exhibits to learn what you can accomplish. (What health and safety features will be implemented; will they affect your program?)
- Determine what size booth you will have (some organizers may limit size) and choose adequate staff for the live event. (You might also consider whether the show has longer hours when you determine your staffing requirements.)
Goal: Create a symbiotic relationship between the two elements of the hybrid exhibit.
- Corral brand assets from every channel to make the hybrid experience recognizable to loyalists and prospects alike. (After a long event hiatus, new advertising and marketing campaigns may have emerged across channels.)
- Integrate brand assets across the entire hybrid event. (Incorporating existing brand assets can make your life so much easier!)
- Replicate live activity for virtual attendees. (Call it scalable or transferable but develop a consistent experience for attendees.)
Goal: Engage audiences on multiple levels
- Agree on content that will be available live and virtually. (Live streaming can make the virtual component exciting.)
- Confirm with the organizer that virtual content will be available after the show. (Negotiate that as part of your exhibit package.)
- Create unique interactive experiences that will be scalable across platforms. (In addition to using technology for live and virtual components, consider whether you can repurpose the content for sales.)
- Use brand assets to create these experiences. (Don’t reinvent the wheel; give attendees a sense of familiarity.)
Develop data collection methods for both audiences
- Determine what data you want to collect and make those fields consistent across platforms. (Start with your CRM to see what you should call the fields on any method you use to collect data—and make your collection consistent.)
- Investigate the use of mobile apps to capture visitor information in the live exhibit. (Your attendees won’t be able to touch surfaces and devices, so design interactivity that complies with existing health and safety standards.)
- Use the same fields for in-person and virtual data capture. (Goes without saying!)
- Work with your exhibit partner to develop interactive experiences that will help collect data. (You will need help with this. Go to the professionals. And start with your exhibit partner so the experience will be consistent—and cost-effective. Adding agencies destroys budgets.)
- Collaborate with IT to make sure data is downloaded into the corporate CRM and, when applicable, appended to existing records. (This is critical in proving the value of trade shows; make IT your new BFFs.)
Once you get in the groove of developing objectives, the task gets more manageable. One last piece of advice: When you tabulate how well you met your objectives, broadcast your success—but more than that, put it in context. Data is fine, but it can be either overwhelming or tedious. Make it exciting. You measured, you aspired, you did it!