E Merge20191873Armando Christian Perez, better known as the artist and entrepreneur Pitbull, returned as a keynote speaker.Photo: David Sutta PhotographyMIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA—A redesigned show floor and attention-grabbing content like keynote Armando “Pitbull” Christian Perez highlighted the sixth annual Emerge Americas, a technology conference and trade show, which took place April 29 and 30 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The show boosted its attendance by 1,000 people year over year to reach 16,000 attendees from more than 40 countries and 400 participating companies including Softbank, P&G, Google, Amazon, Priceline.com, and Mastercard.

“This is not a traditional event,” explained Emerge’s director of marketing, Ashley Abdullah. “[Events] are usually a conference or trade show—Emerge is both. The challenge is, how do you elevate both without cannibalizing the other?”

The answer was by repositioning the expo floor. Chief operating officer Diane Vidoni said the layout placed start-up booths at the center of the floor, then crisscrossed the venue with large-scale, digital activations. The new blueprint controlled foot traffic, balanced activation participation, and increased start-up exposure.

“It was the first time at Emerge that it was not challenging to ensure people passed through the [entire] floor,” she said.

The layout kept both the V.I.P. lounge (with its own private stage) and the show’s sales office on the floor. The result: Multiple 2020 conference contracts were signed before the 2019 event concluded.

Notable Emerge activations included Magic Leap’s light wear, virtual reality Anatomy X, which allowed participants to click on different body systems to have them displayed on a skeleton. The popular demo had a consistent wait list and line. First-time participant and the show’s start-up pitch competition partner George Washington University conducted science experiments at a booth, which required attendees to sign up in advance to participate. CNBC broadcast a live interview with Perez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez from the floor, and Facebook hosted community workshops.

Another change was narrowing registration types to only two options: a tech pass or a V.I.P. pass. The edited ticketing method increased attendee access to daily events and content and also streamlined the analytics. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” Vidoni said. “When I joined Emerge, there were multiple tracks that caused a lot of confusion. We’ve gotten down to the meat and potatoes.”

Planners also embraced a “digital-first” strategy to increase social posts. A 10-person team focused solely on digital marketing and engagement, a visible reminder of which was a giant #emergeamericas hashtag installation at the convention center entrance. While planners are still collecting data, Emerge reported a 430 percent increase in engagement on Instagram alone. The multimedia strategy featured an exclusive interview with interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaido that was streamed onsite and online and teased regularly on social media.

Emerge Americas returns March 30 and 31, 2020.

C.O.O. Diane Vidoni is speaking at BizBash Live: Florida on May 22. Don’t miss out—register here.

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