What is #ExpoChat? – An Interview with Traci Browne

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What is #ExpoChat? – An Interview with Traci Browne

Hey trade show exhibitors! If you’re looking for a way to network and chat with trade show experts and enthusiasts on social media, then #expochat is just what you need. At it’s very core, #expochat is a Twitterchat designed to bring together trade show exhibitors, experts, and enthusiasts to network, share stories, and build relationships with one another.

But, #expochat is so much more. This week, we were lucky enough to learn all about #expochat from one of its founders, Traci Browne.

@TraciBrowne is a freelance writer with many years of experience in the trade show industry. In this interview, she offers exhibitors an insider’s perspective about the creation, operation, and future of #expochat.

#Expochat – An Interview with Traci Browne

What is your background in trade shows? How and when did you first get involved? What do you love most about this industry?

Traci: I got the trade show bug back in the mid 90s when the company I worked for exhibited at COMDEX. That was when COMDEX was in its heyday. I watched as men, sitting in the rafters of the Las Vegas Convention Center, strung the Ethernet cables by shooting them across the convention center with crossbows. I thought to myself, trade shows are the coolest thing ever! A few years later I found myself working as a consultant to Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Biotech companies on their trade show marketing and then finally producing my own conferences and expos.

How old is #expochat?

This month #expochat is two years old. Wow! It honestly seems like it was just a few months ago that I, Dana Freker Doody and Stephanie Selesnick started it.

Why did you and your colleagues decide to create #expochat?

There was a very active event professional community on Twitter that went by the hashtag #eventprofs. I met a lot of great people through that community but found that many of the topics that were being discussed were not relevant to the trade show and expo organizers. A trade show organizer or an exhibitor has many challenges that conference organizers don’t have. Stephanie, Dana and I decided to start a weekly chat that was specifically about trade shows and expos. We wanted something that would be relevant to show organizers, corporate exhibit managers and industry suppliers.

About how many people get involved in #expochat per week?

It really depends on the time of year and the topic. There are days we have 15-20 active participants in the chat and days we have 5-10. We have a good mix of regulars and new people floating in and out. What we were most surprised at was the number of people who watched the chat stream but didn’t jump in, or downloaded the archive weekly to see what took place. We realized that just because people are not active participants doesn’t mean they are not part of the community.

Who decides the topic discussions? Can #expochatters suggest discussion topics?

Sometimes we get suggestions from participants and we always cover those topics, as long as the topic is directly related to trade shows. But more often it’s just Stephanie, Dana or I brainstorming topics based on industry news or things we’ve observed at shows. I wish we had more suggestions from the community. It’s hard to come up with topics week after week.

What advice do you have for exhibitors that want to join the conversation, but are afraid they are too inexperienced to engage?

There’s no reason to be afraid and quite frankly someone new brings fresh perspective. We’re a fun group. To the outsider it may seem like everyone on the chat have been friends forever but most of us only know each other through the chat. We’ve never met in person. It’s a very welcoming group…it’s not cliquey at all. I would recommend participating to learn and network with industry leaders.

Tell us about your favorite #expochat moment or discussion. Why is it your favorite?

There have been so many fun moments on #expochat. We’ve had some great guests on and tried some experiments. Some worked, some not so much. But my greatest #expochat moments are when I meet someone in person at an industry event that I’ve become friends with through the chat. It’s always like getting together with an old friend, just one you’ve never met.

What is the best success story that has come about from #expochat?

I love hearing stories of how #expochat has helped participants find a good vendor, a good customer, a mentor, or even a new job. I think those stories are so common because of the respect everyone has for each other. We don’t always agree, often we do not. But there is always respect for others. Another exciting thing is lately we’ve been seeing #expochat discussions featured in industry news articles. It seems our #expochat participants are considered expo industry thought leaders. We always knew this but now word is getting around.

Why do you think #expochat has been such a success?

I think it’s successful because we chose to focus on the trade show floor. Even when we talk about education it’s from the perspective of the show floor and how you can create a seamless experience for the attendees. We don’t just talk about vague concepts, we get very specific and take a deep dive approach.

Now that Facebook is incorporating #hashtags, do you think #expochat will expand to Facebook? Why or why not?

Not as long as I’m involved! But then again I used to think talking about Pinterest and B2B was ridiculous but I’ve since had my opinion changed on that with a lot of nudging from Dana Freker Doody. I’m not a fan of Facebook for B2B. I’ve never seen anyone able to demonstrate the value. For me Facebook is personal and I do not mix business in there at all…so I guess I would have to say I don’t see myself being involved in any kind of Facebook chat.

What is the most challenging part about running #expochat?

Coming up with relevant topics week after week without getting burned out. Each week #expochat is moderated by me, Dana or Stephanie. With so much going on with our own work schedules it’s sometimes hard to keep up with #expochat. It’s not something you just show up to for an hour each week. We have to post the topic on the website, remind everyone to show up and then come up with engaging questions that will keep the discussion going for an hour. The most fun part though is choosing a video to go along with each week’s chat topic. It’s usually a music video or something humorous. I don’t remember how that started but it’s definitely a fan favorite.

Finally, what is the future of #expochat? What can exhibitors expect to see in the coming months?

Dana, Stephanie and I decided to put #expochat on a summer hiatus of sorts. One, because everyone seems to be on vacation and two, because we need a break. We’ll probably do a chat here and there if a hot topic pops up, but really we’ll kick it up again in September. People can stay up-to-date on the schedule by subscribing on our website, www.expochat.wordpress.com. The only time you receive an email is when the new topic is posted so really just once a week.

Thanks again, Traci for sharing the story of #expochat with us! We hope that our fellow exhibitors reading this post will be sure to tune in to #expochat when it resumes in September!