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When it comes to Gen Z, there really is no substitute for experience

28.05.2024

Positioning a destination effectively is all about knowing what your newest audience is really looking for, says Duangdej Yuaikwarmdee, director of exhibitions at the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).

“The rooftop bars in Bangkok are ideal for the snap-happy influencers and their following of industry colleagues.” (Photo: Shutterstock)
“The rooftop bars in Bangkok are ideal for the snap-happy influencers and their following of industry colleagues.” (Photo: Shutterstock)

Every event organiser sets out to create a memorable experience for their audience; it’s in their job description. But while blending a great venue with the right mix of buyers, sellers and educational content may lead to a strong event on paper, it does not necessarily mean it will result in a memorable one; and memorable events result in rebooking.

Or, to put it another way, the more you can pack sounds, images, physical feeling and other sensory details into an experience, the richer and more memorable it will be.

This is because the first step towards creating a memory – known as encoding – occurs when an attendee encounters new information through experiences that are rich in these sensory details. It’s why we find it easier to recall information we’ve watched on a screen rather than read in a book. It’s why we find it easier to trigger memories we’ve created in person than those we’ve seen depicted on a screen.

For exhibition organisers, your first port of call in the creation of these authentic experiences is a strong local partner. This can be an industry association with a working knowledge of the host city, or a bureau tasked with its promotion and development. Once you’re confident in this partner’s ability to connect you to enterprise, your show directors are free to focus on the event experience.

In Thailand, for example, we refer to a destination’s ability to attract trade fairs based on its reputation for festivals, art shows, food fairs and sporting competitions as ‘Soft Power’.

The next step is knowing where you should direct your efforts - and if you get it right, your secret weapon in the promotion of your event might well be the audience itself.

The untapped promotion agency that is Generation Z

Generation Z will comprise almost a third of the global population in three years, significantly influencing and reshaping exhibitions by the end of the decade.

This demographic is known for being tech-savvy and proficient in the effective use of social media, as well as highly competitive. They value experience over transaction and their behaviour includes a desire to curate their own content. Most importantly, they actively share their experience with others. Social media and online communities ensure everyone brings their own channel with them, where their experience of the event, and the destination, is followed by tens, hundreds and even thousands of like-minded individuals.

The impact of this content cannot be overstated. According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising report, 88 percent of people trust recommendations from a friend more than any other form of advertising. They also demonstrate greater loyalty and are significantly more likely to refer a product - in this case your destination - to friends and others within their organisation.

Once identified, use them to draw attention to the industry you support, to gain traction for your marketing initiatives. Identify the brand champions who can connect you to the communities you need to make your event a success. Give them a slot as a speaker on your show floor, or let them produce a workshop. They will promote it to their followers and bring their own audience with them.

You can achieve this by varying your messaging to accommodate the tastes and requirements of the various audiences of the events you wish to win.

For example, if you’re promoting your destination’s ability to provide an outstanding backdrop for pre-and post-event networking, then don’t promote your venue. In our case this means capturing, for example, the rooftop bars surrounding our venues in Bangkok - ideal for the snap-happy influencers and their following of industry colleagues. Likewise, if you’re keen to showcase strong industrial roots as they relate to your potential visiting audience, then promote the local enterprise, the opportunities for social impact and CSR activity. In our case this would include shining light on our free-trade zones, perhaps the towns and cities helping to drive relevant industries. We expect to open our new Aerotropolis exhibition venue in 2029, and as the name suggests, this holds significance for any organisers of aerospace or aviation events. It might even extend to coverage of our mega-project unfolding on our Eastern Economic Corridor.

Generation Z is a generation of influencers, and every influencer has the potential to become a brand champion with the right material and exposure to points of interest. It may take time and effort, but this time and effort is worthwhile; there are many more of them than there are industry publications, and they’re significantly less expensive - and likely more influential - than paid event promotion teams.

FIVE WAYS THE DESTINATION CAN HELP GENERATE AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT

● When deciding on the destination for your event, be sure to promote your destination’s authentic value to the event audience
● Vary your messaging to accommodate the tastes and requirements of the various audiences of the events you wish to win
● Provide an event platform for local experts and event ambassadors
● Integrate influencers and cheerleaders into your marketing plan by providing them with access to local culture and industry
● Provide the industry connections the organiser needs early, so that they may focus on the event experience

 
 

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