3 Ideas to Steal From the National Athletic Directors Conference

When exhibitors spend thousands of dollars to set up shop at a conference, it’s imperative they receive ROI. The best way to do that is ensuring traffic is at a constant high throughout expo hours. Just ask Mark Koski, CMAA, director of sports, events and development at National Federation of State High School Associations, and Patty Conrad, administrator of organizational affairs at National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Together they thought up a variety of ways to increase expo traffic and avoid dead times during their dual-branded National Athletic Directors Conference, held at Orlando World Center Marriott in December 2015. “We put a big emphasis this year on making some changes with our exhibit hall to attract more attendees and have more time in the exhibit hall,” says Koski, noting that with more than 1,800 attendees, the 2015 show was its second-largest turnout in 46 years. Take a page from the NADC playbook with these three tips to increase traffic flow. 1. Find creative ways to get people moving. Here’s an idea: Turn your expo hall into a game of Monopoly. That’s essentially what NADC’s passport program did. Each day, attendees walked from booth to booth, collecting stamps from any exhibitor displayed on their passport sheets. Once the entire sheet was completed, participants turned them in for a chance to win prize drawings. “Each day we gave out a total of $4,250 in cash to individuals who participated in this event,” says Koski. “It sure did make the exhibitors happy because there was a lot of traffic moving throughout the course of the event.” Of course, exhibitors had to pay for their names to appear in the passport program, but all funds were given right back to the winning attendees. 2. Make the show floor a place where people want to be. Most expos dedicate an area of the show floor to some sort of activity to increase engagement and keep people in the expo hall longer. NADC held a Baggo (similar to cornhole) tournament with NCAA-style bracketing for its members. Preliminaries were held at the organizations’ state conferences and the winners competed in a final match at the national event. “That tournament was dead center of the exhibit hall and created traffic,” says Conrad. “The whole thing was aimed to create as much traffic as possible to keep the exhibitors happy.” 3. Timing is everything, especially with giveaways. Why hand out giveaways at registration or as room drops when you can use them to draw traffic during slow times? For its registration gift (an Under Armour pullover), NADC analyzed the dead times of its previous year and scheduled those times for when attendees could pick up their favors. “It brought back more traffic during odd times, which helped,” says Koski. Another opportunity for increased traffic is door prize drawings. Each day, NADC gave away more than 40 door prizes donated by various exhibitors. These drawings were scheduled during slow hours and attendees had to be present to win, which created more traffic. Photo credit: Randy Orr/NFHS