Creating a Buzz on the Convention Floor - Pharmaceutical Executive


Creating a Buzz on the Convention Floor
Utilizing cutting-edge technologies can build an immersive brand experience for your next exhibit

Pharmaceutical Executive

Stephen Mapes
Some studies show that physicians on the exhibit floor of a medical meeting have a maximum attention duration of seven minutes per booth. So the question is: Can you get physicians to stop at your booth among a sea of 500 other competing exhibits—and can your message be delivered in seven minutes or less? More important, will physicians recall it later?

You can answer yes to those questions when you incorporate technology. New technologies are intriguing, exciting additions to any exhibition booth—but only if they deliver a branding message with style and speed. Here's a battle plan to connect with doctors throughout the booth visit: Attract, Retain, Educate, and Reward.


When it comes to attracting physicians to your booth, the creative use of technology can count for more than exhibit size and will ultimately be a key driver in increasing traffic flow.

For instance, we have all seen an explosion in the use of beautiful video screens that are fully viewable in daylight thanks to LED video technology. Think Times Square or televised award shows, which feature big video screens with dynamic content. Exhibitors at conventions have appropriated this same technology because it is a great way to grab the attention of your target market from a distance.

Be discerning about the video content you use. Keep it moving, and keep it simple. Research shows that viewers don't retain any more than six topic changes in 30 seconds. And don't use any messages that require fair balance—that's an attention killer. The reality is that an attendee will spend approximately three seconds viewing a video from the aisle, so don't use talking heads, complex medical content, or audio.

Another rule to follow is keeping the message highly targeted to the physician you are trying to attract. It's great to play your brand logo animation, but it would be better to connect your brand to clever imagery that is intuitive and relevant to your audience's product-search needs.


Now that you have attracted the attendee, how do you get him or her to stay? Beyond product detailing, engaging attendees in a variety of interactive technologies can increase the time that attendees will spend in your booth as well as product-message recall.

In the popular game Race Under Pressure, bio-interactive technology connects a physician via pulse meter to a simulated driving challenge. The goal is to establish a clear link between the disease state and the brand name, and to throw in a big "wow" factor for good measure.
Your communication must be fast, hard-hitting, and (hopefully) fun and engaging. Even if you have 10 great product attributes to describe to a physician, you have to make the hard decision and pick the one most important point to communicate. Establish a clear link between the technology/activity, the attendee's area of interest or expertise, and your brand message. Brand and therapy relevance are key to success.

One application of technology, bio-interactivity, has garnered great success—especially in the medical-convention environment. For example, an exhibitor marketing a hypertension medication engaged physicians at a recent cardiology show by creating an interactive video game challenge called Race Under Pressure. Participants steered a virtual car using a mock steering wheel. Players wore computer-monitored pulse meters, which caused the virtual car to speed up or slow down depending on their pulse rate. On-screen controls kept players informed of their current pulse status and the elapsed time. Typically, the cardiologist's pulse increased as the race ensued, thereby making it difficult to control the car. If a player lost control of the car and crashed, he or she had to answer a product question to get back on course. The ultimate goal was to leave the cardiologist with a strong sense of connection between hypertension control, blood pressure alleviation, and the brand name.

Interactive technologies are a great way to retain attendees and keep them focused and engaged, but they aren't the only creative tools to keep physicians in the booth. Disney-esque theater technologies have been adopted on the convention floor with great success. Recent examples include a 3-D movie with smells and wind that took psychologists through a first-person schizophrenic experience, a 3-D movie that took cardiologists through the first-person experiences of a stroke and heart attack, and a 3-D theater with a panoramic screen and moving floor that swept rheumatologists through a rugged landscape to meet arthritic patients successfully treated with the exhibitor's brand.

Ideally, these technologies should be portable so that they can be used at key conventions and in the field.


Interactive and theater technologies will retain physicians in your booth, but, ultimately, brand education is the end goal. Remember that you have only about seven minutes to make an impression—succinct and creative message delivery is essential on the convention floor. As a guideline, keep it to one message per brand. The best message takes what is intuitive about your brand and what your physician knows about the relevant disease state and uniquely connects the two elements in a compelling and unusual manner.

For example, another bio-interactive technology solution called Focus on the Mind was developed for an epilepsy therapy and targeted to neurologists. In epilepsy treatment, a key part of a product's efficacy lies in its ability to calm the patient's brainwaves. One exhibitor presented an interactive challenge in which two neurologists wore EEG sensors attached to their foreheads and were seated at either end of a long table. In the middle of the table sat a silver ball controlled by EEG signals. When the EEG sensors measured more relaxed brainwave activity in one neurologist, the ball rolled toward him. This naturally produced an excited reaction in the targeted neurologist, resulting in quicker brainwave activity. In response, the ball moved away from the "winner" toward the individual now deemed to be the calmer of the two. This mental tug-of-war became an exciting educational activity that created immense buzz on the convention floor.

Do you wish to focus on the product or the disease state? Disease state messages work well in theater settings because of the more scientific nature of the information and the reduced need for fair balance, while brand messages may come across better in the interactive setting, where a more didactic approach to communication ensures clear message communication and provides a better tool to deliver fair balance.

A hybrid solution that combines the personal engagement of interactive technology and the fun of a theater setting is an interactive theater. Here, exhibitors can tap into the competitive nature of physicians and pose multiple-choice quizzes in a theater setting, hosted by a moderator. At each seat in the theater is a touch-screen computer. The moderator poses a question that is posted on a large screen in front of the theater and as physicians answer the questions, the summary data is presented on the screen and reviewed by the moderator. This way, physicians can understand how their fellow physicians answered the questions in aggregate without facing embarrassment that their individual answers were right or wrong, ultimately enhancing participation and learning.


Obviously, in the post-PhRMA world, the universe of premiums has vastly shrunk, but rewarding or thanking attendees for visiting the booth is an additional way to ensure a positive experience as well as remind them about your product. These items can often also work as an incentive for attendees to remain in the booth and participate in the product detail and hands-on learning activities.

Overall, technology is the one major element that has the ability to not only get attendees' attention, but to draw them in and keep them there. Following these simple guidelines may be the difference in helping you deliver the impact and wow factor that physicians will remember well after the show.

Stephen Mapes is vice president of creative services at Impact Unlimited. He can be reached at


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