Thursday, 22 September 2011

5 ways to gamify trade fairs and expos

Attending the Ad:Tech exhibition at Olympia in London yesterday and today, I am struck by how untechnical it is. No suggestion of participating online. No suggestion of accessing information online as one moves about (an ideal Layar layer would surely be information on the stands and products on your smartphone as you move about the show floor). No suggestion of moving towards a virtual fair...which is surely the future...but when? I am also struck that between seminars, which can be divided into two groups: those that make an effort to tell you something new and those that don't attempt to hide the fact that they are here to sell their products and services, the show floor can be a little boring if you are not specifically looking for a new supplier of universal analytics or mobile widgets.

So here are some ways to gamify your trade fair experience:

1. At a fair like Ad:Tech, which combines marketing and technical elements, there is a fun game of "spot the techie". The techies who go to this fair are more socially aware than many of their backroom cousins, but still tend to dress differently from your core advertising people. That's not a bad thing. The world needs people who keep servers running and set up websites and provide analytics software. But you can, if you wish, divide your targets along a spectrum from 'Too cool for school' through to 'Übergeek and borderline Asbergers'.

2. Related to this, is spot the brands who do not realise this is the 21st century and there is no place for sexism. They are easy to spot. They have young women dressed in skimpy clothing with the company brand on their chest giving out leaflets and other freebies. If they had men in skimpy clothing that would not improve the issue....we're at a business trade fair, not a disco.

3. Freebies. This is fun. Go around the fair to pick up the best freebies you can. So far I have an aluminium water bottle, a book, a beach ball, a squishy Einstein and a desk-basketball set. No need to buy Christmas presents this year!

4. If you are not trying to watch your weight as I am (well, watch it not changing and wishing it would go away), see if you can get a free lunch from the diffent sandwiches and canapés on offer at the different stands. You could try and get drunk too....there are occasional offers of cheap champagne and wine.

5. Create your own version of X Factor. At the seminars, score the presenters on their performance. You could have different criteria, such as appearance, vocal style, PowerPoint slide quality, audience interaction.... You could even give em feedback, such as "Enthusiastic delivery John but you are in danger of sounding like you are hectoring the audience and borderline irritating" or "Great content Jane but think about how you can use your voice to keep the audience awake".

In fact, this suggests to me a great new idea for a start-up. We will create an app for all mobile platforms (iOS, Android, RIM, Windows) that for any given trade show will provide a list of seminar speakers and exhibitors. The exhibition organiser could use the app to share schedules with attendees, but the game part will be to have easy one-touch buttons to score speakers on different criteria, a sliding scale from übercool to übergeek which you can use to rate speakers and attendees, a 'name and shame' feature to spot shameless sexism by different exhibitors. You could even award badges such as "Runner-up best speaker" or "Too cool for school" to individuals. You could earn points too according to freebies and food consumed.

We could showcase the app at next year's Ad:Tech. We just need to get the chocolate teapots to give away, branded miniskirts, sock-and-sandal combinations for sales staff, and we'll need to take a course on presentation skills. If anyone wants in, just let me know. This time next year we'll be millionaires....

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