Driving Motivators – Don’t Disregard Research Reply

By Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP
CEIR Managing Director

The American Society of Association Executives Foundation, in conjunction with Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research recently released a research paper, Current and Emerging Trends of Tradeshows, An Assessment of Stakeholders’ Preferences. The paper examines the core reasons for both attendees and exhibitors participating in trade shows and what their motivations are in attending.

Not surprisingly, the findings of this research project align with a CEIR omnibus research project with Dr. Jeff Tanner, a professor of marketing, What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions. The ASAE research was focused on shows attended by association organizers, while CEIR’s research included both association and independent organizers. ASAE’s study shows that attendees are motivated by learning and exhibitors are motivated by the potential of doing business. Yes, we already know this is a fact.

The ASAE study did reveal a few nuggets including that location is important. A recently released study by CEIR, Stopping Attendee Loss concurs with this finding on the attendee side. Both audiences in the ASAE study assigned high value to an event being held in a large metro area or a midsize city within the U.S. An area for opportunity is looking at international destinations. Some might say that their association’s mission is focused on the U.S. and their members are not interested in events outside the U.S. What about members outside the U.S. – either current or prospective? It is a missed opportunity.

This was also reinforced at last week’s Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum during a session examining opportunities for attracting attendees from Mexico to shows in the U.S., and cloning an event in Mexico. Using an audience response system, the overwhelming majority of executive level attendees (primarily associations in the DC area) responded that their association is not looking outside of the U.S. Both the ASAE study and CEIR’s studies note that the preferences and motivations of both attendees and exhibitors are changing. This is essentially a disruption in how trade shows have traditionally functioned. We must be adaptable to avoid irrelevance.

How to Pack a Punch When Exhibiting 1

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, CEIR Research Director

When exhibiting, is it enough to buy space, put together a booth and show up? Well, chances are, that will not be enough. Efforts are needed before the event, on-site and following the event to maximize results.

Before discussing what type of on-site activities will help boost the impact of exhibiting, let’s first itemize some basic “must do’s”:

  • Choose where to exhibit wisely. Does it have the right attendees? Are they a good fit in terms of delivering the prospects for one’s organization?
  • Once an exhibition is selected, are goals set for exhibiting? Are metrics put in place against these goals to evaluate the success of exhibiting?
  • Are pre-event promotions undertaken? Has messaging gone out to pre-registrants when a list is available – or better yet, a list of the specific categories of attendees – one most wants to reach? Are marketing efforts undertaken inviting known prospects, encouraging them to attend the exhibition and visit one’s booth? Invitations from exhibitors are a highly regarded information source that helps influence attendees when deciding whether to attend an exhibition, according to CEIR’s report on Attracting Attendees.
  • What efforts are taken to follow-up with leads captured at the exhibition? How quickly is follow-up taken? For insights on common practices and what is considered most effective, take a look at the report, Sales Lead Capture and Follow-up Trends.

Ok, assuming all these basic steps are followed, what on-site marketing activities at the exhibition help maximize the impact and success of exhibiting?

  • An absolute necessity is assuring that one has a listing in the exhibition program. In Attracting Attendees, it is found that most attendees, 94%, engage in some kind of pre-event planning. Over half, 56%, search the exhibitor directory to help identify booths to visit.
  • What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions reveals that top ranked important reasons why professionals go to exhibitions are to keep abreast of industry trends and have a chance to talk with industry experts. Therefore it is not surprising in the study of exhibitor on-site marketing practices that the most effective activity in helping exhibitors achieve their goals is speaking at an educational seminar/workshop. What a great way to project one’s organization as a thought leader by running a session. In the report Exhibitor Ancillary On-site Marketing Practices, 71% of surveyed exhibitors indicate doing this and among those who do, 86% say this effort is effective in helping them meet their overall goals for participating. Pretty compelling results.
  • This report provides insights on other commonly used on-site marketing activities and perceived effectiveness in helping exhibitors meet their goals. To read the full report, go to: http://www.ceir.org/store_products.view.php?id=2554

Hosted Buyer Programs That Work Reply

By Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP
CEIR Managing Director

Each year I’m impressed by two organizers who have very successfully fine-tuned a hosted buyer program – IMEX Group, which organizes worldwide exhibitions for the incentive travel, meetings and events industry in Europe and the USA, and Reed Travel Exhibitions, which organizes exhibitions for the same market in the U.S., Europe, China, and India. Both have created a model that seems to work.

In a report from the CEIR study on the Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction, only 32 percent of attendees and 25 percent of exhibitors report participating in a hosted buyer event in the past two years. The perceived value of participating in a hosted buyer event is not as strong as it is for traditional business-to-business exhibitions. In looking out to the next two years, only 27 percent of attendees who have attended such an event report that hosted buyer events are expected to increase in value compared to 43 percent of professionals who have attended a traditional business-to-business exhibition. The same holds true for exhibitors, only 21 percent of exhibitors at hosted buyer events anticipate the value for these events will increase in value while 37 percent of exhibitors at business-to-business exhibitions expect value to increase.

Research by the American Society of Association Executives Foundation offers insights on the perceived lower importance of hosted buyer events. In a study in conjunction with Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research recently released a research paper, Current and Emerging Trends of Tradeshows, An Assessment of Stakeholders’ Preferences. The paper examines the core reasons for both attendees and exhibitors participating in trade shows and what their motivations are for participating. The ASAE paper noted that respondents, even if they attended more than one hosted buyer event, rated this type of event a low importance attribute, 17th of exhibitors and 14th among attendees.

The two hosted events I am most familiar with – the IMEX and Reed events – provide for small group conversations/presentations, yet according to the CEIR study when given a choice, neither exhibitors nor attendees rank this type of face-to-face interaction as their first or second choice, 11% and 17%, respectively. One-on-one demonstrations with exhibit personnel are most preferred, 86 % by exhibitors and 76% by attendees. Yet, because of the sheer size of hosted buyer events, one-on-one conversations are difficult. Both the IMEX and Reed events have surrounded the exhibition with education, which is highly valued among attendees.

IMEX attributes 12 years of ideas to its success. Reed Travel Exhibitions has been conducting hosted buyer events the longest. Perhaps the smartest thing both of these companies did was to collaborate with industry organizations around the world. Both have also situated education developed by these industry organizations around the shows.

Industry collaborations, along with education, and even more importantly highly qualified buyers seem to be the recipe for success. The exhibitors value this high density audience, even though the cost of exhibiting is substantially higher than traditional business-to-business exhibitions. They must see the value and achieve their ROI or they wouldn’t be back year after year.

I’m interested in hearing from attendees on their points of view on hosted buyer events, and of course from exhibitors on the value versus the traditional event.

How to Stop Attendee Loss Reply

By Warwick H. Davies

As most event organizers know, the top three problems in the business are (in order): attracting attendees, attracting the right attendees and making a profit. It behooves the event organizer, therefore, to understand why attendees do and don’t attend their events.

CEIR has just published a report covering the outcome of not managing these top three event objectives entitled How to Stop Attendee Loss, written by Jeff Tanner and Nancy Drapeau. The report specifies the reasons why attendees no longer attend some of the events they previously did. What is interesting to me is that the common thread through all the reasons was the lack of perceived value and relevance of the particular event to the former participant; and what is particularly worrying to me is the increasing number of senior executives and decision makers who are actively cutting down the number of events they attend annually. The research included 421 responding active conference attendees across 14 industries, so it sounds as if Jeff and Nancy have nailed a phenomenon to which all of us should be paying more attention.

What is the remedy for re-attracting past attendees? In my experience, the event organizer having issues with attendee loss has almost always lost touch with the key buyers of their events – especially not knowing what is “keeping these attendees up at night.” If the organizer is aware, it is not either actively programming or designing events around these issues, i.e., the event has not stayed relevant in the marketplace.

In any case, awareness of the problem is the first step in improvement, and this report does a good job of highlighting the likely causes. The next step is rolling up your sleeves and reconnecting with your targeted audiences, and that is as easy as picking up the phone…

Warwick H. Davies
The Event Mechanic!
11 Wyman Road
Lexington MA 02420
T: 781.354.0119

Serendipity Reply

By Bill Sell
Director of Event Development, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority

Serendipity. It’s one of the greatest benefits of face-to-face marketing and exhibitions. According to Dictionary.com, Serendipity isan aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident,’ and business-to-business exhibitions do this very well.

Think about a printed magazine. Want to read the article or see the ad on page 36, you can flip the publication open right to that page and skip everything before. But at an exhibition, if you are looking for ‘booth 36’ you need to actually walk by all of the booths leading up to that location. Is there a chance of finding some interesting new products or suppliers? Serendipity!

Attending conferences also plays well with serendipity – ever sit in a conference and not make eye contact or talk with others in the room? Face-to-face events have so many advantages over online-only programming or print content. The recent CEIR Changing Environment of Exhibitions Study looks at many unique benefits over other marketing or sales channels.

The study indicated 61% of executives surveyed feel face-to-face offers them the ability to see a large number of prospects and customers over a short period of time. If attendees plan their trips properly, then appointments are made in advance. Getting together with prospects who are usually tough to reach by telephone or in person in their offices, are all part of this same unique benefit of face-to-face events.

To make your face-to-face events more productive for your constituencies, push planning ahead. In your promotion campaigns for your events, keep suggesting that your exhibitors contact clients AND prospects in advance of heading out to the exhibition. These appointments still might not happen (people frequently miss at-show appointments), but being able to reconnect while still onsite at the event will improve the perceived results of the exhibition for both exhibitors and attendees.

Exhibition Organizer Perspective: What is the Next Marketing Tactic? Reply

By Vicki Hennin

CEIR’s recently published Cost to Attract Attendee Report inspired me to look at our own events and see how our cost/attendee and use of various marketing channels compared.

Like many of the respondents, we rely quite heavily on email marketing. Over the past several years, we’ve worked hard to target our direct mail efforts to those most likely to respond. As a result, our direct mail costs have declined significantly. Great for the cost/attendee metric – but we are beginning to realize that we’ve shifted too much of our focus into marketing through email and not enough to other marketing tactics. When I added up the total number of emails sent through our various providers, the results were staggering. You would think we are more of a mass marketer than a B2B event organizer.

The trend in open rates and conversions is not a positive one. We are worried about the increased use of mobile devices, the corporate efforts to tighten up spam filters and to blacklist, and the overall saturation of the email channel.

We’ve started to talk seriously about improving our inbound efforts – developing more formal strategies where we leverage SEO, SEM, and Social Media to drive traffic that can tap into quality contact that can help us both acquire qualified leads and convert prospects to attendees.

Like other survey respondents, very little of our budget and not too much more of our time has been invested in developing these inbound tactics. Traditionally, our exhibitor referral program has been our top driver of registration. This tactic is inexpensive and brings new buyers to our events and in the past, when we think of “indirect” sources of registrants, this is always top of mind. It is definitely time for us to not just talk and experiment with new tactics, but to really start putting time (and some dollars) into efforts that can begin to shift our reliance on email marketing.

Vicki Hennin is the Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Business Intelligence at Diversified Communications. www.divcom.com


Interview with Exhibitions Day Co-Chairs Chris Brown and Megan Tanel Part 2 Reply

By Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

Exhibitions Day Co-Chairs Chris Brown and Megan Tanel, CEM continue their talk with CEIR about the advocacy initiative taking place 16-17 June 2014 in Washington, D.C. Visit www.exhibitionsday.org for more information.

Workforce Development is Important to Your Business 1

By Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP, Chief Operating Officer, International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

I was fortunate to have attended last week’s IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum. The forum’s purpose is to help women in identifying their brand, presenting their brand, and living their brand. Authors of Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence, Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins, were the keynote presenters at the forum. They suggest that professionals need to know:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I at the table?
  • What is my aspiration/best and highest contribution?

Once those questions are answered, a person will be able to identify their brand and the next step is being comfortable sharing their brand (letting others see their authentic self) which then helps them work toward establishing their leadership presence (living their brand). Regardless of what our career goals are, and regardless of gender, each of us needs to be able to articulate and be authentic and true to ourselves in our professional lives. Identifying your personal brand is nothing more than working toward establishing your leadership presence.

What I was especially interested in watching was the year-over-year growth of young professionals in attendance. They were all bright and very engaged in the exhibitions and events industry – the rising stars. Knowing that as an industry, we have a looming problem with workforce development, helping young professionals to identify and be able to articulate their personal brand will only help them and their employers in the long-run.

In the CEIR study, Power of Exhibitions in the 21st Century, Identify, Discover and Embrace Change from the Point of View of Young Professionals, Phase 2, the findings correlate the supposition above. Young professionals want to engage and interact at an exhibition, and they look for the engagement and interaction to create an overall experience. Messages that resonate with them in attending an exhibition include networking and career-building opportunities.

Those of us at the executive level need to encourage, and provide, our employees with leadership development opportunities. It makes good business sense and something we should all be doing.

Interview with Exhibitions Day Co-Chairs Chris Brown and Megan Tanel Part 1 Reply

By Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

Exhibitions Day Co-Chairs Chris Brown and Megan Tanel, CEM talk with CEIR about the initiative taking place 16-17 June 2014 in Washington, D.C. Visit www.exhibitionsday.org for more information.

Hello Washington, D.C.! Reply

Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

Whether the U.S. government officials in generating commerce “get it” or not, exhibitions and events play a big role in the grand scheme of the U.S. economy. Small start-ups to large corporations who are launching new products participate in trade shows because they make good business sense.Countless reports from CEIR address how much of an economic and overall impact this industry has on the general business environment. Here are just a few examples:

  • There are more than 2 million organizations exhibiting in business-to-business exhibitions; more than 68 million professionals attended business-to-business exhibitions; more than $11 billion in gross exhibition revenues was generated from all sources of business-to-business exhibitions, including the sale of exhibit space, conference fees, advertising, sponsorships and other sources. (2014 CEIR Index Report: 2013 Results)

So, what does an industry have to do to get a little credit? Take it straight to the top. And that’s what Exhibitions Day intends to do, by stopping in on Capitol Hill 16-17 June for a little one-on-one time with members of Congress to educate them about the importance of exhibitions and events. No lightweights here: this is a joint effort between the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), Exhibit Designers + Producers Association (EDPA), Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA), International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and the U.S. Travel Association (USTA).

As far as we know, this is the largest collaboration yet between the various representative organizations of the exhibitions and events industry so we’ve asked Exhibitions Day co-chairs Chris Brown, Executive Vice President, Conventions & Business Operations, National Association of Broadcasters and Megan Tanel, CEM, Vice President of Exhibitions & Events, Association of Equipment Manufacturers to give us more insight into this major initiative.

Part 1 of this conversation will be posted this Tuesday, May 20. In the meantime, visit www.exhibitionsday.org for details about Exhibitions Day.