Innovation has a short shelf life in the trade show industry. "People become jaded," says Scott Cullather, founder and managing partner of inVNT, a communications company that specializes in meetings and events based in New York City and Washington, D.C. "They see the same thing over and over. In my opinion, you really need to do something uniquely different to rise above the white noise of everything else. If you don't, you haven't spent your money wisely."
So instead of taking a 10-by-10 plot on the trade show floor at ASAE's Springtime Expo in April, Cullather hired more than 40 actors, paid for their registration to the show, dressed them up in inVNT-branded white t-shirts, painter's pants and sneakers, and paraded around the hallways of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center -- sometimes as a group, sometimes dispersed -- to spread the word about the young company. The whole performance cost less than one-third the expense of a traditional booth, Cullather says. "Our competition didn't like it," he adds, proudly.
Other companies have taken a similar outside-the-booth approach when it comes to making an impression at meetings. Last fall, Cart-Away Concrete Systems exhibited incongruously at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas, just to get blogger attendees to generate online buzz about the forward-thinking nature of the company. And this past spring, videogame maker Electronic Arts staged a protest of one of its own new games at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.
These techniques "cut through the clutter," Cullather says.