How Successful is Your Product Theater?

Product theaters are certainly not new to the mix when considering marketing opportunities available at most tradeshows, including those tradeshows in the healthcare segment of the exhibits industry, as Jackie Beaulieu explains.

If you aren’t familiar, product theaters are dedicated engagement areas that provide a learning opportunity to reach a targeted audience, such as clinicians or HCPs. Quality time and meaningful discussions are the hopeful outcomes of producing a product theater. And while many organizations have sponsored a product theater, success is not a given. Some product theaters are successful and some, not so much.

Product theatres provide a learning opportunity to reach a targeted audience.

As someone that has seen both first-hand, I can tell you that in my experience, the first step to success is to read up and ask questions on the association’s rules and regulations related to its product theater offering. Each association structures its rules differently, so it is not always a “one size fits all” product. Ask questions and make the exhibits manager your best friend. Word of warning, not having a comprehensive understanding the rules can make for a costly and unsuccessful venture.

The most obvious difference is that some associations market, register, promote and provide all the operational logistics, while other associations do not. Many associations essentially offer the meeting space and leave the rest for the sponsoring organization to coordinate and arrange. So be sure to find out well in advance what is required to be successful so there is ample time to prepare and promote the product theater to the desired target audience. While a product theater can be an extension of your exhibiting efforts, it will typically require similar efforts to those of a successful exhibit booth. Set goals, pre-market, create educational content, scan badges, and complete follow-up. Again, a bit simplified, but it demonstrates and highlights many of the very same tasks necessary to produce a successful exhibit booth program.

A product theater is an extension of your exhibit program and requires similar efforts to ensure success.

Product theaters are an ideal environment for education in a variety of formats. Depending on the needs of the sponsoring company, product theaters allow for company representatives, researchers or designees to discuss patient educational issues, research, products or to conduct demonstrations. All must have prior approval and availability is usually a first-come, first serve basis, typically available during the day during unopposed hours. Limited availability can make planning and applying for space in a timely fashion, an important part of securing a product theater.

Another important facet to consider are the marketing and promotional materials, both of which must follow the association’s rules as well. Most associations clearly state in the prospectus that all marketing and promotional materials produced by the sponsoring organization include a statement related to continuing education, as well as language that states the association does not endorse the product theater or anything that is related to it in an official capacity. Be sure all of these types of materials are approved prior to printing, and distributed through approved marketing opportunities designated by the association. In other words, read the prospectus and when in doubt, be sure to ask. What a costly and embarrassing mistake to find out at the last minute that a rule has been broken and materials can’t be used.

As alluded to earlier, a product theater is similar to the production of a successful exhibit booth. So it would make sense that additional items to consider related to a product theater are pre-show promotion, signage, speakers, audio visual, meals and lead retrieval. Each of these categories may need different requirements based on the association. Be sure to incorporate each into your overall plan for success. And, if you are giving away a meal, be sure to scan the badges so that CMS Open Payments requirements can be met.

The most important piece of advice is to determine if a product theater will provide the best forum to assist your company in reaching its predetermined goals. When that has been established, read the prospectus and ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. A product theater is an investment and usually includes very specific criteria set forth by the association. So while it is important to work with vendor partners that understand the unique needs of healthcare exhibitors, it is also vital to remember that when there are doubts…ASK! Be sure, either you or your vendor partner develop a strong relationship with the exhibits manager and make them your new best friend…that is a true investment that will pay dividends!

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