Why This Trade Show Offers Zumba, Pinball, and Makeovers (and You Should Too)

By Mitra Sorrells February 14, 2013, 8:00 AM EST

Organizers said both men and women took advantage of the free manicures offered at 10 stations in the Beauty and Fashion area.

Photo: Mitra Sorrells/BizBash

It’s a challenge many trade show planners face: how to maximize the time attendees spend on the show floor and how to keep them moving around so all exhibitors get good exposure. The National Auto Dealers Association tried a new strategy this year at its convention and expo that wrapped up Monday at the Orange County Convention Center. The organization has offered wellness and lifestyle activities at this event for decades, originally to entertain spouses and usually housed in a meeting room. This year, organizers brought these activities onto the show floor, creating four destinations with identical eye-catching signage and decor and offering a variety of options to appeal to everyone.

“We put it in quadrants of the show floor to create a flow. The whole idea is to bring energy to the expo floor, to keep people on the floor, to keep the flow going,” said Melissa Wolpert, director of convention services and operations for the association. The idea developed during meetings with the association’s board of directors and with a sample of exhibitors to generate ideas on how to improve the show. Wolpert said feedback has been positive. “Our attendees appreciate the mental break,” she said. “And we’ve found some exhibitors like to be near those areas, so it is a good selling point.”

The association worked with Freeman to develop the theme of Cypress Isles for the lifestyle zones, which had names of Beauty and Fashion, Healthplex, Gametime, and Relax. Huge red-eyed tree frogs and large chandelier-like structures made of green fabric panels with tonal circles made it easy for attendees to locate them on the show floor. The event’s Web site and printed materials also used the Cypress Isles logo and instructed attendees to “look for the cypress trees”—meaning the green hanging banners.

The Beauty and Fashion area looked like the cosmetics section of a department store. Makeup artists from Neiman Marcus stayed busy all three days, providing complimentary Laura Mercier makeovers and skincare consultations. The store also hosted information sessions on beauty topics and provided a fragrance bar where attendees could sample popular fragrances. While the lifestyle activities at the show were offered for free, attendees could purchase makeup, skincare, and fragrance products directly from Neiman Marcus, and Wolpert said store employees had to bring in more stock to meet demand.

In the Healthplex area, Zumba instructors offered 20-minute dance workouts four times a day on Saturday and Sunday. N.A.D.A. convention operations manager Christine Marshall said the Latin music added energy to the show floor, although it attracted more onlookers than participants. Additional health offerings included cholesterol, blood glucose, and bone density screenings, skin analysis, and bone marrow donor registration. The Gametime area included pinball machines, arcade games, Nascar simulators, a photo graffiti wall, and golf swing analysis, and the Relax area offered chair massages, an oxygen bar, and custom-blended aromatherapy sprays.

More than 21,000 people attended the convention and expo, which offered education sessions and exhibits from 600 companies.

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