Every February in Chicago, when the winter doldrums start to really take hold and everyone is sick and tired of cloudy, gray days, the Chicago Auto Show moves into McCormick Place for a 10-day stay. The Chicago show is billed as the largest in the world and has been going on for over 100 years.
The 2013 version took over both the north and south McCormick buildings. For those of you who have never been to a consumer-attended auto show like this, it’s really quite a different experience from a traditional “business to business” event.
For me, the Chicago Auto Show is my chance to sit behind the wheel of a Porsche convertible, walk a show floor not during move in or move out, and otherwise not think about how windy and cold it is outside.
My 20 year old son and a friend came along.
It’s been a number of years since we’ve gone to this show together, and I looked forward to spending some time with my son. We walked the show floor - there was the Porsche exhibit. “Hey! Let’s sit in one of these babies!” I said to the boys. No response, just a stare. “Nah. Matt and I want to see the Scions.”
Scion? What’s a Scion? I soon found out. During the course of the next few hours, I also found out the 32 years between us definitely showed the differences in our tastes and preferences. We arrived with different agendas and expectations.
Exhibitors did a great job of addressing these demographics. The Scion exhibit (and similar) was filled with interactive video, easy access and many car models. The products I was interested in featured displays with more open space fewer vehicles and less technology to deal with. Pretty obvious that these guys knew their markets.
There has been much written about a recent report from CEIR (Center for Exhibit Industry Research) that examined the reasons why attendees visit trade shows and events. It states that 81% want to experience new technologies as it relates to them, 73.6% want to talk to experts and 71.7% want to see new products/services.
When talking with customers, we typically ask them what they would like to accomplish at their event. Goals are important and how their story is presented is important to achieve those goals. The report from CEIR makes the case that we shouldn’t be asking the exhibitor what their goals are, but what are the goals of the attendee.
Are you using technology that is engaging? Have you staffed your booth with the “experts” to answer questions on the spot? Are you showing what is new, or the same old, same old?
Walking the auto show and reading this report makes me question how we start the design process with our customers. Now the question isn’t going to be “What would you like to accomplish?” but rather, “What are the attendees trying to accomplish and what can your exhibit environment do to meet their expectations and provide solutions?”
They may be looking for a Scion and you are pushing Porsches.