Your event day is quickly approaching, your online race registration is rocking, and it’s time to iron out all of the little event details. Including one of the single most polarizing portion of any event weekend extravaganza: the expo.
Polarizing? You bet. Athletes either love expos or hate them. Where folks fall on the love/hate scale has a lot to do with how well expos are planned, how much value they offer and, most importantly, how much fun they are.
So how do you make your expo experience more fun for your athletes than a basket full of energy chews?
Make It Interactive
Look, we get it. Part of the reason you’re throwing the expo is so sponsors can get in front of your athletes and sell them on their products. But here’s the thing, you can only visit so many personal training or smart water or running tape booths before you find yourself so bored that you’d rather listen to Rick Astley’s greatest hits on repeat than suffer through one more sponsor sales pitch.
Your sponsors have a reason to talk to your athletes, but you need to give your athletes more reason to talk to your sponsors. You’ve got to get your people engaged.
One of the most fun expos I’ve ever been to had a scavenger hunt of sorts, where you had to go to each sponsor booth and complete a different challenge. For every challenge you completed, you got a stamp on a card. After you collected a stamp for every sponsor booth, you turned in your card and were entered to win a sweet new pair of running shoes.
It was genius. On my end, I felt like I was participating in an actual conversation at each sponsor booth and on the sponsors' ends, they got the chance to talk to way more athletes and, presumably, sell way more products.
I didn’t walk away with the sweet running shoes, but I had such a good time, I still consider it a win.
My point? More interactive = more fun = more happy athletes who are loving your expo.
You know what’s decidedly not fun? Getting stuck behind a crowd that’s ooh-ing and aah-ing at a sponsor booth, shoulder-to-shoulder with some guy who clearly came straight to the expo post-run/pre-shower (who should maybe check out that super cool deodorant display), with no room to squeeze by and make your way to the bib assignment table.
Getting stuck in a sea of bodies as you go through an expo is fun for approximately zero people. You want to have the right balance of plenty of sponsor tables and plenty of room for people to actually get to said sponsor tables. Making your athletes feel like a herd of cattle is an expo no-no, so make sure you arrange your expo with plenty of travel room.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - people love free stuff. It’s a solid 75% of the reason that athletes even go to the expo; a lot of folks can’t help but be called away from their pre-race preparations by the promise of free protein bar samples, bumper stickers and Gatorades.
But for some more *ahem* discerning athletes, the potential for a free fruit punch just isn’t going to cut it. They’d rather just pick up their packet on race day and skip the expo altogether, thankyouverymuch.
So if you want to take the awesomeness of your expo to the next level and get more people there in the process, give your athletes extra incentive. Give away a free race registration to every 100th athlete who walks in the door. Raffle off a carb-loading party at a local restaurant. Give away anything awesome (keyword here being awesome - save the key chain bottle openers for another day), and advertise the hell out of it on your online registration platform.
Feel free to ignore these strategies if you want your expo to be as much fun as a getting a Novocaine-free root canal, but if you want the raddest expo in town expo in town, it’s time to start thinking about how to up the fun factor.