What Exhibitors and Brands Can Learn From TED Talks

If you’ve ever spent time watching TED Talks on YouTube, you’ll know that there’s a set format almost all of the videos abide by. They don’t worry about long introductions, fact setting or credentials. After all, you know that the speaker must have pretty good credentials to be up there in the first place!

There are three things that make something like a TED Talk or another experience memorable. In this article, we’ll look at how the same principles can and should, be applied to your event experience when exhibiting, whether to a B2B or B2C audience.

TED Talk

Tell the story

First is the story you are telling. Not every TED Talk is as successful as another. Some just catch fire. In fact you can see the difference in this study between two talks on leadership. One which has thousands of views, the other millions.

This comes down to the story being told. In events and particularly exhibition design, it can be easy to become distracted by design that looks good or a piece of technology. Yet it is important to repeatedly return to the story. The why are we here? This is the message that will transpire to your audience and will grip them. At MWC this year, we saw a clear example of a B2B brand who lived by their story.

ENEA’s stand design breathed their Nordic culture and everything from the visuals, to the centrepiece, to the lighting, represented something about the story they were telling.

At last year’s Drupa, a print trade show, Kodak unveiled a life-sized version of an urban neighbourhood called The Kodak Quarter. It had creative studios, printing presses and art work. Kodak wanted to tell a story to their customers that would tap into their creative hearts; not just their buying power.

In B2B, this is a rarely utilized marketing method, yet one which is wildly successful.

Start in the middle

Most TED Talks start in the middle. Sometimes, they even begin at the end.

This is a narrative technique often used in books and films too.

Why? Because we are finetuned to be gripped by stories and experiences. Yet when you start at the beginning of a story, it takes time to work up to the climax or the bit that everybody will remember.

The chances of losing a percentage of your audience during this part is high. According to studies, our attention span is less than eight seconds. That’s an incredibly short amount of time to capture someone’s interest before they’re onto the next thing.

Other studies show that the first seven seconds of a TED Talk are crucial. Seven seconds in and your audience have already made their opinion on the video, topic and speaker.

In exhibitions, we’d hazard a guess that you get even less. A fleeting glimpse as the visitor moves past the stand. Even if they are on path to visit, you still have less than 10 seconds to make a good first impression.

The way the stand is designed should aid this. Many think about the design from a visual perspective, but what about how the design works? Our thought process at 4D ensures that we look from the perspective of the arriving visitor. Is it clear where to go? Are there people positioned to help? Is there a feature, video or presentation that can grab attention from the first second? Is the screen positioned to hit the eyeline at the perfect point?

All are important, in helping your visitor’s first experience to start in the middle, then work backwards to fill in the blanks.

Technology, Entertainment, Design

Many don’t realise that the “TED” of “TED Talks” actually stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. When TED began in 1984 it was a conference that aimed to converge technology, entertainment and design topics. Today, it is much more broad and covers a series of topics outside of those areas. Yet, within exhibitions, the acronym still seems appropriate.

Technology has become an expectation of every exhibition, from B2B to B2C, at technology-led shows such as MWC as well as through events around dental, aircraft and others. Using technology is an innate way to attract visitors and help tell your brand story in a way that is memorable.

Entertainment, is a secondary key which can be used to spark a moment of passion or learning.

Lastly, design is what brings everything together. Without a great design it is easy to miss the value of the technology, or to be attracted by the entertainment.

In fact, an exhibition stand without a stunning design is like watching a TED Talk without sound, perhaps a pretty picture but nowhere near reaching its true potential.