techweekLast week, James and I ventured to Merchandise Mart (what I like to call the smorgasbord of Chicago) to walk the floor of  The Expo at #techweekchi, the biggest TechWeek in the country. Expecting to meet a bunch of tech start-ups in the Midwest, we were surprised to be inspired with event strategies as well:

Target ‘em.

shaveBoth Cheeky Chicago (the women’s online guide to Chicago) and New Amsterdam (a spirits company) did a wonderful job at appealing to their target markets, visually and experientially. Cheeky Chicago’s booth was bright pink and lounge-y, filled with employees offering free water and deals for their Cheeky Card. Rumor has it they threw a great after party at Studio Paris on Saturday too. New Amsterdam went after the men at Tech Week, setting up their space like the Prohibition period – two barber stations offering shaves, a bar and free shoe shining appointments.

Bribe ‘em.

cashMoney talks people, and so does alcohol. sent bartenders on The Expo floor with trays of shot glasses filled with a fake $100 bill (listing company information, mind you, but that didn’t stop anyone from asking if it was free money) and an opportunity to get a free shot at their booth. Let’s just say that around happy hour, that booth was busy. New Amsterdam makes the list again by being one of the only exhibitors with a bar AT their booth, not allowing the official TechWeek bar to steal all of the foot traffic.

Excite ‘em.

Many booths caught my attention simply because they provided a break from sales pitches, appealing to the kid in me with some good old-fashioned games. One company featured a life-sized Jenga; a corner of The Expo was filled with ping pong tables; and one booth pulled attendees in with Rock’Em Sock’Em. All of these booths were well-attended because they showed that the companies cared about the event-goers experience as well as winning their business. And, they allowed for natural networking as attendees challenged each other. Why not encourage company employees to do the same during breaks at their sales meetings?

Surprise ‘em.

freeoskFreeosk, a product-sampling company, works with retail giants to get new products in front of consumers. Why not rent one of their devices for a product launch event, allowing employees to try it before it hits the market? Vensi’s booth featured an iPad-on-wheels, which not only piqued attendees’ curiosity but also captured priceless footage from the event. Finally, TechWeek featured a non-profit on The Expo floor – FIRST. We always recommend a charity element in all of our clients’ events so it was great to see this philosophy carried through at TechWeek. FIRST was a perfect fit, too; a technology-based activity through the building of the robots that also entertained attendees while they watched  sample competitions.

Simplify ’em.

lockersThere were no shortage of places to charge your cellphone. Our favorite was the wall of lockers provided by Motorola. Open an empty locker, plug in your device, and lock it up. The key stays in your pocket while your phone gets juiced up securely. Gogo Inflight also had multiple kiosks set up on the floor for quick-charges!


Extra Notes

We were sure to grab business cards from three technology start-ups that caught our eye too:

Fueled – a custom app developer for brands and events (TechWeek, to name one!).

Nowsourcing – infographics from start to finish: research, design and promotion.

Launch Pad Lab – a new face in the web development space.

We’re also constantly on the search for recommendation-worthy ideas to help clients liven up their employee communications. I never expected to find a few at TechWeek, but I did spot two unusual (yet simple) concepts: – a catering company that surprises you with local treats based on office tastes and preferences. What a great prize for a department-against-department competition!

Push for Wellness – James is the oddball at FLIRT with a standing office; but what about a walking one? This company promotes company-wide wellness through health and exercise programs.


What did you find note-worthy at TechWeek Chicago this year? What exhibitors did we miss?