Creating Personalized Experiences at Large-Scale Events

At Convening Leaders 2024, Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, president of mdg, shared how event organizers can create personal experiences for attendees at large trade shows and conferences.

Author: Casey Gale       

people register

Creating a welcoming registration area at events will go a long way in promoting engagement with attendees right away, CL24 speaker Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes said in her session. (Whatever Media Group)

From Netflix recommendations to targeted emails, “we live in a world of mass personalization,” said Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, CEM, president of mdg, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events. “What I’d like to challenge event organizers to do is to get a little further down the spectrum where we, too, are creating personalized experiences for our attendees,” Hardcastle-Geddes told participants during her presentation, “Facilitating Curated Event Experiences: How Thinking Small Delivers Big Returns,” on Monday at Convening Leaders 2024.

woman. speaking

“I personally find it sort of surprising knowing that the registration area is often where our attendees have their first touchpoint with our brand and how unwelcoming they often are,” Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes said. (Whatever Media Group)

Hardcastle-Geddes presented 20 real-world examples during her session. Here are three that stood out:

  1. Offer a docent-led tour of the exhibit hall. The first time Hardcastle-Geddes saw a docent-led tour of an exhibit hall, it was a Pantone color expert leading 20 interior designers around a trade-show floor to show them how that season’s color was materializing in different products. She also pointed to CES, happening this week in Las Vegas, where docents take brand leaders on tours to point out the most innovative technologies on the trade-show floor. “It can be done in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons,” Hardcastle-Geddes explained. “Some of our clients do charge for them, others don’t…they might do them for folks who are new to the trade-show experience or what have you.” Two recommendations Hardcastle-Geddes shared: Keep tours small for easy maneuverability around the trade-show floor and appoint docents from outside of the event organization. “Maybe an association partner, maybe a consultant in the industry, or an editor at a magazine, so that they remain neutral,” she said.
  2. Provide access to private meeting rooms. Using Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week as an example, Hardcastle-Geddes said that she’s heard frequent feedback from supplier attendees that private space to meet clients is crucial to their event attendance. “One of the things that we do to increase attendance at our events is encourage organizations to bring vertical buying teams to the show,” she said. “One of the perks that we will often give organizations is a private meeting room to do meetings before a trade show, so they can come up with a game plan with their team.” While Hardcastle-Geddes acknowledged that the logistics of arranging meeting rooms is not always simple, “when we have done this for our shows with strategic intent, there has been very good ROI,” she said.
  3. Create a welcoming registration area. “I personally find it sort of surprising knowing that the registration area is often where our attendees have their first touchpoint with our brand and how unwelcoming they often are — and if not unwelcoming, I would say they’re usually pretty uninspired,” Hardcastle-Geddes said. Ways to create moments of engagement from the moment attendees enter the registration area include playing music, offering drinks, or arranging for greeters from the organization to meet people as they arrive and answer questions. “Maybe you have somebody that’s got Chapstick and Band-Aids and water,” Hardcastle-Geddes suggested, to make attendees feel tended to during their first moments at the event.

20 Bright Ideas

Find more about Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes’s 20 bright ideas for personalizing an event.

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.