Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 18 2013

What Attendees Want from Exhibitors

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Still trying to determine what your attendees are really hoping your trade show will offer? A new study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research highlights that the majority of attendees want more than product previews. With survey participants from more than 400 respondents across 14 industries, the results show that attendees place nearly equal importance on expanding their own personal knowledge as they place on buying for their organization.

From education to exploring new products, here’s a look at how exhibitors and exhibit managers are satisfying those buying and learning needs.

How Are Exhibitors Doing?

Overall, very well.

Of the top 10 buying needs, survey participants indicated that exhibitors are meeting the majority of them. Not surprisingly, they rank the ability to see new technology, the chance to talk to experts and the opportunity to interact with new products among the most important drivers in their decisions to attend.

Where Can Your Exhibitors Improve?

While the majority of buying needs are being met, the study suggests that are areas for improvement, including these existing shortfalls:

  • Less than 70 percent indicate that exhibitors are able to answer their questions on the spot
  • Only 60 percent are able to find solutions for existing problems from exhibitor offerings
  • Less than 60 percent say that they are able to gather info for upcoming purchases

Dr. Jeff Tanner, Ph.D, Professor of Marketing, Baylor University, and Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the study’s organizers, offer a few helpful tips for exhibitors.

“Exhibitors should consider from the attendee perspective whether interaction opportunities are sufficient,” the two write. “Less pitch, more play (with the product) may be one way to meet attendee needs more fully.”

Tanner and Drapeau also reinforce the importance of ensuring that a booth is staffed with true product experts to ensure that attendees can find answers to all their questions while on the show floor.

Where Should Exhibit Managers Focus Their Attention?

Exhibit managers can use these insights to help coach businesses with booth spaces on how to attract traffic and engage attendees.

It’s not all about booth space, though. With so many survey participants indicating that education and personal development are key reasons for attending, exhibit managers must focus on curating high-quality programming in addition to bringing top companies to their show floors.

“There’s been a continuing shift to pairing learning with buying,” Sherrif Karamat, Chief Operating Officer, PCMA, says. “While attendees are looking to identify the technologies and tools that can help their organizations, they’re equally concerned about their own career advancement. Securing expert speakers and forward-thinking seminar topics can transform a trade show into an experience that satisfies a wide range of needs.”

What Does the Future Look Like?

While exhibitions appear to be delivering value in the current business climate, exhibit managers must be looking well into the future to ensure their continued relevancy. A recent study supported by ASAE, CEIR, Freeman, Gaylord Entertainment and the PCMA Education Foundation helps show organizers do just that with five scenarios of what trade shows may look like in 2016.

For a glimpse of how trade shows may evolve and how you can prepare for the changes, click here.

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