Rethinking the Traditional Convention Booth at MIX10Mar 17, 2010 In Events By Thomas Lewis
The Unbearable Lameness of Convention Booths
There were a few reasons why I was uninspired about having a booth.
- I find the traditional pipe and drape booth layout rather boring.
- We will have teams from Microsoft and sponsors who attendees will be super excited about and will eclipse what would be our little, humble booth.
- We are not resourced on my team to “work” the booth and find “rent-a-booth-babes” insulting.
- I would want a place that was a unique experience and I could hang out in with our amazing attendees vs. promote, promote, promote.
Then I realized…that’s exactly what I wanted: a unique experience where attendees and the team could hang out together.
Introducing the MIX Online Lounge
Instead of having a booth, why not have a lounge instead? But what about all the issues I had just alluded to having a problem with?
Well, I began putting on the designer hat and tackled the constraints one-by-one. By creating a lounge, I had just solved the “manning of the booth problem” since a lounge does not require constant feeding. We created an area that folks can sit down (more on this later) with plenty of seating space, power strips to plug in those hungry laptops and tables to put their feet up or show off something they are working on (a.k.a. networking). Now this does not mean that we won’t be there, in fact when someone on the team is not involved in other activities (i.e. presenting sessions, keynote dry runs,live streaming setup and maintenance,customer meetings, firedrills, etc.) we will be hanging out talking to folks.
How a Mushroom gets Attention in a Field of Flowers
Now our little lounge has some stiff competition for attention since we will be announcing some amazing thinks in the keynote. So how do you get attention when there are so many choices?
Do the unusual.
First, we decided to hand out commemorative posters for the event, not us. That’s right; we didn’t market our own community site, but instead decided to provide something to attendees that they would appreciate. Our URL is on them, but very understated. We also made sure that attendees didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to keep from damaging their poster (the paper stock is awesome that we used) by figuring out which tube roll to use (sort of like prototyping). We found a tube that was small enough for a suitcase but large enough not to crease them.
Second, our banner is not the traditional Microsoft banner. We even decided to deviate a bit from our MIX Online style guide and really vie for the eyeballs. This is not your father’s Microsoft banner. It plays off of our mascots, the mushroom man and lavender frog and is very noticeable at 25’x15’.
Finally, we decided to really go out of our way to create a unique experience. The amazing folks at ThinkAlt who worked with us to design this experience mentioned in one of our meetings:
“Hey, we know a designer who creates mythical creatures out of common furniture. Would you be interested?”
So we decided instead of the traditional convention center standard-issue chairs and couches, wouldn’t you prefer to sit on a caterpillar couch or a 7-foot alien chair? Yes, yes we did.
Stop…mushroom men, lavender frogs, 7 foot aliens? Are you insane? Maybe; but we think that it will create excitement, buzz and adhere to the MIX conference ethos of “Unexpected”. Also, how would you like to hang out talking about web design while sitting on mythical creatures? We are looking forward to attendees hanging out, doing podcast and video casts from our lounge (note: if you want to interview someone from the MIX Online community site team, please e-mail us), and most importantly engaging in great conversation and fun with us.
To Be Continued…
As you can imagine, we are excited. Come back during the MIX10 conference for pictures of the lounge and some of the fun stories that came from it. If you are attending, be sure to come by and pick up your commemorative posters and stickers. Also, check your swag bag because the MIX Online community team put a little something lo-fi in there for you. Be sure to follow @mixonline and me on Twitter to keep up on what is happening at the lounge in real-time.
Update: The MIX10 conference is now over and I guess we could say that the MIX Online Lounge was a success. My worries that folks would see it as an “art piece” was unfounded. Attendees would catch up on e-mail, have power meetings and take pictures of the lounge and of themselves enjoying the lounge too.