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From Plain Old Exhibition Booth to Interactive “Thought Incubator”

Recently we partnered with Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (Brookfield GIS) to create an exhibition booth at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) Building Lasting Change conference and expo at the Vancouver Convention Center.

The idea was originally hatched at a reception after a session we graphically recorded for Brookfield GIS in January. The team was explaining that they had a booth booked at the upcoming CaGBC expo, but they didn’t want to be another plain old booth with a branded banner and some brochures to hand out … they wanted an “unbooth”. The idea was to create a collaborative experience that would engage people in thinking about the issues being raised at the conference, and give them a venue to share their thoughts about how to create a more sustainable future in the commercial real estate industry.

They were curious about how interactive visuals could be incorporated into their unbooth and used to meet their objectives for the show. A rapid brainstorm ensued and the concept for a “Thought Incubator” that included a collaboration wall was formed!

Throughout the following months we had regular planning calls with the Brookfield GIS team to develop the ideas for the Thought Incubator and to organize all of the logistical details required to implement our idea. We decided to create two collaboration walls where expo goers could stop by and share their ideas.

photo 0The Thought Incubator also included two towers. The first was a more traditional looking building, which displayed key information about Brookfield GIS and the many ways that they are already champions of sustainability. The second tower, designed to represent the move to regenerative design principles, had a plant emerging from the top of the building and included green backlit windows. On this tower we gave people an opportunity to respond (on green, leaf-shaped sticky notes) to the following:

  • We believe it’s feasible to reduce energy, water, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions in commercial office buildings by 20%. Tell us YOUR ideas about how we can get there!

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The day before the expo, Get The Picture’s Lisa Edwards was onsite with Amanda Kusick from Brookfield GIS to build the towers, set up the collaboration walls and ensure that the Thought Incubator space was ready to receive visitors.

Expo day became a flurry of activity once the doors were opened and people started streaming in. We were delighted to find that our Thought Incubator attracted a diverse range of conference delegates, intrigued by our unique concept and eager to share their insights. The collaboration walls were situated at the back of the booth and Lisa E. was standing by to discuss the questions, and map the responses on the walls. Amanda and a host of other Brookfield GIS team members made new connections, answered questions and engaged in meaningful conversations about the future of sustainability in our buildings and cities. Media, who were curious to learn more about Brookfield GIS and the Thought Incubator concept, also interviewed us.

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Midway through the show, Brookfield GIS hosted a reception at the booth complete with a mobile bar and bartender, which created a lively party atmosphere, and even more buzz.

At the end of the day as we packed up, we reflected on the value of trying something new in an environment where people expected more of the same. We left the expo energized by the new connections created throughout the day, and by the success of the Thought Incubator experience.

Here are some tips on how to use live graphics to be the most popular booth at a tradeshow exhibition:

Make sure you apply the visuals in meaningful ways.

For example, given that this exhibition was all about “greener buildings” and construction methods, we used foam core boards to construct 2 large building structures. These stood as pillars to the entrance of the booth. Green windows, lit by low energy LED lights from inside, and living plants on the rooftops conveyed event themes obviously and meaningfully. Information about the company and recent awards won were graphically displayed on the walls of the buildings.

Design an interactive component. At the Thought Incubator, we used compelling, effective questions to engage visitors in contributing their ideas. Our graphic recorder mapped visitor input in real-time on a collaboration wall.

Take a “little hat, BIG hat” approach to interactive components. Design one question that provides fruitful information for your organization. We asked, “What experience at CaGBC Building Lasting Change makes you most hopeful and why?” Ask another that collects and reveals useful information for the broader industry community. For instance, “How do we need to shift our thinking to create a sustainable/inspired future?” and “What have you learned about at this exhibition that inspires you most? Causes you anxiety?”

Leverage co-created graphics as an opportunity to follow up. Visitors become awfully curious about what others are saying on the graphically recorded map and they want to see it once it’s finished. This becomes a natural opportunity to collect contact information and follow up with a desired, valuable communication (an electronic version of the maps).

Balance the push and pull of information. Dedicate some of the visual space to communicate what you would like people to know about your organization’s offering (the push). Reserve other visual space for collecting and visually displaying information gathered from visitors to your booth (the pull). We also used used the hashtag #collaborationwall to get information and comments circulating online.

Think of your booth as an experience, not a display. Compared to all other exhibition booths, ours was like a party. Not only was it colorful, eye catching and interactive, we had an entire team of staff enthusiastically welcoming and hosting people to the booth. With many hands on deck, time could be spent building personal relationships while showing people through the space and stewarding them through the interactive activities. There were sticky notes for people to write on and post, graphically displayed information to view, a collaboration wall, and we also rolled up a bar and served mocktinis in electric green glasses. People gathered, stayed, and began enjoying one another in what was an oasis of fun in a desert of the usual.

Distribute the experiences throughout the booth to manage traffic flow and encourage a curiosity to discover the offerings. For example, we pushed or pulled information on every wall of our building structures. This naturally led to people circulating around them to view all sides. As they did so, they were drawn to the rear of the booth where they then became interested in participating in the collaboration wall.

Perhaps the most important tip we have for you is to leave extra time for setting up your booth experience. This is not your average booth after all! Make sure you have the time, and the help, to get it all done.

So, next time you have a tradeshow coming up, don’t build a booth. Let us help you stand out far from the rest by creating an interactive, visual experience!

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