Reimagining Career Expos: From Dull to Dynamic

I cannot stand the 1990s style career expos or similar events. With much effort and energy, marketing and promotion, time and resources, these events often fall flat. Picture this: a banner and trestle, maybe with a plain or branded tablecloth, one or two people mostly with heads down and on their phones sitting behind the table, brochures splayed, lollies in the bowl. Brochures may get picked up but often go in the bin, lollies get raided, and it is usually not a nice environment to have a conversation, to truly find out people’s interests and needs.

If you are going to organise something like this, then couldn’t you make it mandatory that exhibitors have an activity or mini appointments, perhaps a way to try out tasks within careers and jobs, get out from behind the table with an immersion or different environment set up, a cool attractor or demo?

Make it fun, engaging, and interactive, way shorter in terms of time and less costly, or an alternative event with more of a networking approach so connections can truly be made. Call it something like a Jobs Fair, Hiring Hall, Creative Expo, or Career Connect Fest. Feel free to try it out and over to you.

Here’s why this transformation is necessary and how it can be done effectively:

Outdated Models

The traditional career expo model is outdated. A table, a banner, a bowl of lollies, and a stack of brochures just don’t cut it anymore. Most attendees are left wandering aimlessly, collecting pamphlets they will likely discard, and feeling disconnected from the exhibitors. The interaction is minimal, and the opportunity to make a real connection is lost. As a result, both the attendees and the exhibitors leave feeling unfulfilled.

Engaging and Interactive

Imagine an expo where each exhibitor is required to provide an interactive activity or mini appointments. This could be a way to try out tasks within different careers, offering a hands-on experience. Attendees could engage in a simulation of a day in the life of a particular job, participate in a quick skill test, or join a mini-workshop. This would not only make the experience more memorable but also give them a better understanding of what the job entails.

Immersive Environments

Why not take it a step further and create immersive environments? Instead of sitting behind a table, exhibitors could set up mini offices, labs, or workshops. For instance, a tech company could have a coding station where attendees can try their hand at programming. A healthcare provider could set up a mock clinic where potential recruits can practice basic medical procedures. This kind of setup not only attracts attendees but also provides a realistic preview of the job.

Networking Approach

Alternatively, consider a more networking-focused event. Instead of static booths, have an open floor plan with designated areas for different industries. This would encourage free movement and organic interactions. Attendees could mingle with professionals, ask questions, and make connections in a more relaxed and informal setting. You could even organise speed networking sessions where attendees get to spend a few minutes with various employers, successful employees, apprentices or students, and industry leaders.

Success Stories

Several professionals in my network have shared their positive experiences with interactive expos. Richard Scollin, Program Coordinator at Growing Careers, wholeheartedly agreed with the need for change. Navtej Bal, CEO of Ironwood Institute, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the importance of making these events engaging. Karen van Gorp, Senior Policy Adviser at the South Australian Business Chamber, mentioned a successful event focused on defence careers that required interactive activities from each exhibitor. Samantha Wilson, Manager Works Program at Renewal SA, and Marlene Cole, The Career Storyteller, both stressed the effectiveness of interactive stalls, highlighting the success of providers and apprenticeship groups in engaging visitors.

Innovative Ideas

To make these events truly impactful, we need to think outside the box. Sharlene Lynch, Global Speaker Tribe Leader at Speakers Tribe, suggested that these events should be angled towards teenagers choosing their career paths. Providing an opportunity to test and try out careers would be invaluable for young people making critical decisions about their futures.

The traditional career expo model is long overdue for a makeover. By incorporating interactive activities, creating immersive environments, and adopting a networking approach, we can transform these events into engaging and memorable experiences. Let’s call it something new and exciting, like Career Connect Fest, and make real connections that benefit both the attendees and the exhibitors.

It’s time to rethink and redesign the approach to career expos, making them dynamic, interactive, and ultimately more effective.

For more ideas, you might like to watch these videos from events this year:

Written by Wendy Perry, MD at Workforce BluePrint