Event Marketing

The Big Draw at IHIForum19

Thinking about how to attract more people to your booth? You might want to add a photo studio where attendees can get their photos taken by a professional or a have an artist create fun caricatures of booth visitors.

The exhibit hall at the recent Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Annual Conference – IHIForum19 – featured a wide variety of booth attractions designed to engage attendees. Many exhibitors used classic techniques like spinning a wheel for prizes, serving gourmet coffee, and offering a buffet of sweet treats.

The exhibitors that integrated the attraction into their overall booth design (like having an actual coffee bar in the middle of their booth vs a temporary coffee cart off to the side) were, anecdotally, more successful at drawing in attendees. But there were three booths that stood out and generated the most traffic:

  • Verge Health had a mega-sized Operation game
  • 3M had a professional artist drawing caricatures of booth visitors
  • Premier had a studio where attendees could have their photo professionally taken

Nostalgic Game Brings Smiles and Curious On-lookers

Remember that classic Operation game you played as a kid? The one where you had to use tweezers to pull out tiny plastic body parts from a “patient” without touching the sides of the opening. Now imagine that game almost life-sized…that’s what Verge Health had at their booth.

The brightly colored game was front-and-center of the Verge booth and was easily accessible to people walking by. In a ten minute span I watched 3 people stop and try their hand at the game. It was fun to watch people try to extract the infamous “bread basket” and “funny bone” with the salad-tong sized tweezers.

Whenever someone played the game, a group of 3-5 onlookers would form and cheer on the player. Everyone left with big smiles on their faces.

Kudos to the Verge Health marketing team for finding a manufacturer of a mega-sized Operation game and for having the courage to put the game in their booth. It left a positive impression on anyone who stopped by.

Long Lines for Professional Photos

The longest lines at IHIForum19 were not at the cash bar. The longest lines were at the photo studio in the Premier booth. Whenever the exhibit hall was open there was a throng of people waiting to have their headshot taken by a professional photographer.

Photos are hardly a novel idea, but Premier executed it effectively. They had a space in their booth dedicated to the photo studio. It wasn’t shoe-horned into an existing booth layout. There were no demo stations crammed up against the studio and there wasn’t super-bright lighting on that side of the booth to ruin the photos.

Premier also smartly ran the line into the aisleway without blocking it, which caused people walking by to stop to figure out what was going on. Many of those who stopped ended up joining the line.

Overall Premier did a great job with the portrait studio and it certainly brought a lot of people into their booth.

Caricatures Generate the Biggest Buzz

The biggest draw in the IHIForum19 exhibit hall was the caricature artist in the 3M booth. Like Premier, 3M had a constant line of eager people snaking around their booth. However, there were two elements that made the attraction at 3M’s booth the most effective at the conference.

First, 3M gave people clear plastic bags (with their red logo of course) to safely carry their completed caricatures. By mid morning there were dozens and dozens of people walking around proudly carrying fun cartoon versions of themselves. They were literally everywhere you looked – at lunch tables, in sessions, roaming the exhibit hall and waiting for the hotel elevators.

I watched one person early on at the conference get stopped no less than 10 times in the hallway by fellow attendees who wanted to know where they could get their caricatures drawn.

Second, 3M placed the artist in such a way that people walking by their booth could watch as the caricature was being drawn. This attracted a small crowd who would stop to appreciate the deft digital brush strokes of the busy artist. Even those who didn’t line up for their caricatures left the 3M booth smiling.

Because the caricatures had to be physically carried by people (unlike a digital photo which was emailed), it generated buzz at the conference and extended the reach of 3M’s brand beyond the exhibit hall. As well, by making the artist visible it drew people in even though they weren’t participating…just like the Operation game did for Verge.

Other notable booths

There were two other notable booths at IHIForum19 – Ventiv and Qventus.

Rather than a traditional company uniform (a shirt with a logo), the Ventiv team wore their signature bright-yellow shoes which were very noticeable in the exhibit hall and in the hallways. By using shoes to tie their brand together, they allowed their staff to dress in whatever clothes made them comfortable (those corporate logo shirts never fit right).

The other notable booth was Qventus who sported a bold purple color scheme and a wall of monitors. It was a very striking exhibit and instantly attracted the eye of attendees as they walked through the hall. The open and inviting space in the middle of their booth also helped draw people in.

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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