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Multimedia/Audiovisual
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
What exactly does the term "tech noise" mean, and how can I ensure my exhibit's audiovisual presentation doesn't fall victim to it?

A.
In the exhibiting world, tech noise refers to the sometimes overwhelming amount of digital technology (both audio and video) on the show floor. In the past, booths may have been cluttered with graphics, which might have made it difficult for exhibitors to stand out and be heard. But even the brightest exhibit-lighting graphics of the past never had the visual impact of today's LCD, LED, and OLED displays, which function as super-bright lightboxes. Since almost every exhibit includes some form of audiovisual display, tech noise is an issue at almost all trade shows.

In addition to creating a sometimes confusing cornucopia of images and sound, tech noise presents an extra hurdle for exhibitors, as they need to find a way to make their AV displays stand out in a world that's already blinking, shouting, and booming. But don't despair. Here are some simple ways to ensure your presentations are heard, even when the show's tech noise reaches rock-concert levels.

Establish and maintain a content focus. In larger booths, AV can sometimes compete with itself. Presentation theaters, videos, multiple product interactives, and digital activities may pull focus from each other, distracting and overwhelming visitors.

Focusing your content can help clarify your digital messaging and build a more coherent booth experience. If you want to make an impact with a large-scale interactive activity, this might incorporate animated brand messaging directly so you can use a single large video display for both. If your focus is a presentation theater, consider giving reps tablet displays for conversations rather than using large touchscreens.

Design consistency can also help build focus. If all your exhibit media follows the same graphic style and implements the same core messages, it becomes a unified visual experience, rather than a random assortment of images competing for attention.

➤ Make the medium fit the message. Your exhibit may use AV technology in a variety of ways for various functions, including brand messaging, presentation theaters, interactive games, etc. While there is a tendency to think that bigger is better when it comes to media, sometimes the opposite is true. For example, activities that ask visitors to enter personal information (such as names or email addresses) might raise security concerns if presented on a large video wall. In addition, detailed product information may be easier to read on smaller, more high-resolution video displays. Even games may benefit from smaller presentations, allowing visitors to relax and experience the game without feeling self-conscious.

On the other hand, elements such as presentation theaters and overhead digital signage can maximize their impact and garner more attention at larger sizes. As a gauge, consider the human factor when specifying AV for your exhibit; the size that typically makes the most sense outside of the convention hall is often the best size for media in your booth.

➤ Keep your ears open. With all the AV eye candy at exhibitors' disposal, it's easy to forget about audio concerns. Between videos, presentations, and music, convention halls are already loud; add in hundreds of attendees, and the resulting sound can become a cacophony. And many trade shows have regulations that prohibit audio that can be heard from competing exhibitors' booths, limiting your ability to overcome the din.

Fortunately, there are options that will let you utilize high-quality audio without adding to the tech noise. Videos can be presented with captioning for casual visitors or with headsets for more interested attendees. Directional audio technologies, such as sound domes, can be used to isolate audio to focus only on visitors standing in a particular location.

As with visual displays, focus is important; if you have an in-booth presentation, other media might be best presented silently. If sales reps' conversations are a priority, it might be best to avoid amplified audio completely. But overall, make sure audio is part of your booth planning so you can strategize before it's too loud to hear yourself think.

➤ Avoid using media as a traffic builder in most cases. Large-scale media can make an impression and present your brand messages to large audiences. But if your goal is to generate leads, communicate product information, or engage in conversation, it might not be your best focus.

Today, through our laptops and mobile devices, we carry incredibly advanced technology with us every day. At home, we use beautiful, 50- to 60-inch flatscreen displays. So in 2017, adding digital media to your exhibit no longer gives you a high-tech "punch." The presence of this rich media is expected. So how can you leverage an AV purchase or rental to truly engage your customers? Consider the following:

➤ Relevance: If attendees want product information, they can look it up on their phones; what info do your booth visitors really want or need?
➤ Interactivity: Beyond video and PowerPoint, can you use digital games, surveys, or social media to invite attendees to actively participate in brand experiences?
➤ Human Factor: How can your booth staff use AV to make personalized, compelling presentations and demos?

Tech noise is very much like junk mail. Despite your efforts, you'll never quite escape it altogether. However, the previous strategies can help you ensure that your own messages are heard loud and clear despite the surrounding clamor.

— Patrick Snee, creative director and principal, Blue Telescope, New York
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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