Tracking the Retention of Attendee Organizations

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, CEIR

When it comes to business-to-business exhibitions, many organizers place close attention to the exhibitor side of the equation, and for good reason. It is often the primary revenue generator for an event. Though in order to maintain and grow an exhibitor base, maintaining and growing a quality attendee base is essential.

In recognition of the value and importance of exhibition organizer efforts to retain attendees, the CEIR Board approved the commissioning of the Attendee Retention Insight Study. This initiative takes a close look at attendee retention efforts engaged in by the largest trade shows in the United States. The rational for studying this group of exhibition organizers is that the largest events by virtue of their size are industry leaders, their strategies and efforts have brought them success.

In this blog, let me discuss the extent of attendee retention tracking efforts uncovered in this study and thoughts about the merits of tracking retention of attendee organizations.

According to this CEIR study, a large percentage, 77 percent of those surveyed, top-ranked exhibition organizers track attendee retention. Most of these organizers, 98 percent, track retention of individual attendees.  Fewer, 48 percent, track attendee organization retention.

I believe NOT tracking attendee organization retention is a missed opportunity. Why should an organizer care about attendee organization retention? Here are a few reasons why it may be worth doing for your event:

  • An organizer certainly should care about retention among bellwether attendee organizations, the ‘key buyer’ organizations that exhibitors are aching to connect with. Communicating a higher percentage of retention/attendance of top-tier attendee organizations that represent the largest share of buying power in target sectors is a powerful story to promote to existing and prospective exhibitors.
  • Attendee organization retention is valuable to track for those sectors where the universe of possible attendees is small. They may never create a critical mass of people walking an exhibition floor, but having regular attendance among organizations of coveted sectors is impactful; another great reason why companies should exhibit at your event every edition, particularly when such professionals are very hard to reach.
  • The fourth report in this CEIR study  documents that many attendees, 67 percent, come with others from their organization and that many of those do have group goals or activities. Understanding what those goals are and supporting their activities to help them have successful experiences helps forge a deeper relationship with these attendee organizations. Organizers that offer such attendee organizations amenities say this effort is highly effective in driving repeat attendance.

For readers interested in learning more about results from this study, visit:

Let’s Get Physical

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, CEIR

It is fascinating to watch the evolving interplay of digital and physical business activity. If one flashes back 10 years or so, it was the time of digital birth … and destruction. Digital left a trail of ruin and new digital outposts emerged in their place. Business media has suffered greatly to name one. Anything non-digital was on the table for disintermediation.

If one looks at the publishing world, odd developments are in play making me wonder, have we reached some kind of plateau for digital?  Amazon’s foray into physical store outlets is a curious development. In 2015, the first Amazon store opened on the campus of University Village mall in Seattle. This first store must have done quite well, as they will soon launch another store at a mall near the University of California, San Diego. And Amazon is planning to launch more physical outlets.  A recent New York Times article reports on their activity.

This trend is in the business-to-consumer world, what about business-to-business?

In the business-to-business exhibition world, where CEIR research documents that on average, companies that exhibit allocate 41% of their marketing budget to business-to-business exhibitions, one wonders if there would be an attack from the digital flank to change that. Though still today face-to-face marketing for companies that exhibit is an essential part of their marketing approach.  As the Marketing Spend Decision study reveals, business-to-business exhibiting is part of a multichannel mix, though it is a very important part of the mix.

Why does it continue to prevail? Well, because it delivers! Digital can only get a company so far, physical, face-to-face marketing helps these companies succeed. Where face-to-face marketing is essential to the successful marketing of their products or services, it is an ideal place. It delivers essential ROI, the ability to achieve multiple business objectives in a time and cost-effective manner. Business-to-business exhibitions that deliver the right audience are the ideal face-to-face marketing oasis.

In a force ranked question in the 2015 Exhibitor ROI and Performance Metrics Practices study, sales lead generation and relationship management are top ranked objectives for exhibiting. And if you look at the table below, you can see why these are important reasons; because they align with the purchase process stages when  exhibitors find it important to meet with their target audiences to move a prospect to the point of purchase and then repurchase. This study further finds that exhibitions deliver best on sales revenue, lead generation and number of meeting metrics. It affirms the effectiveness of this channel in enabling exhibitors to achieve multiple business objectives in a time and cost-effective manner.

Source: 2015 CEIR ROI and Performance Practices

This report also discusses the fact that exhibiting companies regularly engage in other tactics alongside exhibiting, including digital tactics. Though clearly there is a synergy here that is positive, using exhibiting and digital, an integrated marketing approach that maximizes the success of a company’s marketing and sales objectives.

I think Amazon has caught on, and is reentering the physical world to maximize its business success.

Befriend Data to Give Your Customers What They Truly Want

GES Blog postOriginally published by GES

By , Manager, Strategy & MarketWorks, GES

Using data in events and exhibitions doesn’t mean doing a rough head count. In an environment where executives are asked to squeeze their marketing budgets for all they’re worth, it’s vital to create engagement with your customers and prospects on their paths to purchase. How can you do that? By working to understand their motivations, of course.

You need to know what’s important to people when they decide to attend (as well as leading up to the event, during the event, and after). Here’s how you can befriend data to increase engagement and make meaningful improvements to your offering:

1. Digest the data.
Your first step should always be to get cozy with the data set available to you. For example, you can download the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s (CEIR) “2016 Digital Toolkit to Enhance the Attendee Experience” report, which helps both organizers and exhibitors answer questions around attendee preferences.

Structured in four parts, CEIR’s report showcases technologies that can enhance the attendee experience and compares attendee input with these technologies so you can see what might be effective for your brand.

It covers crucial segments of the visitor’s journey: the decision to attend, pre-show planning and registration, attending the event, and post-show follow-up. It also illuminates the different preferences between members of your industry segments and special attendee groups, like frequent attendees, final decision makers, women, and young people.

Without data, your crowd is a sea of faces. With data, it’s a room full of friends.

2. Plot your engagement story.

Map your attendees’ journeys, marking the points where they already engage with your brand. Now, plot new points of engagement. Make use of opportunities to influence attendance and spur interest, especially with the technologies and channels they tap most frequently. Use what you’ve learned from the data to step into your attendees’ shoes and predict where and when they’ll want to connect with you.

3. Sponsor up a storm.

Attendees are more likely to attend and engage with your brand if they associate good things with you. Take a targeted approach to how you present your brand at an event. Identify sponsorship opportunities — use the data to discover what organizers can offer you, how you can use sponsorships to add value for attendees, or how you can gain traction by attracting a larger attendee share. Don’t make it hard for attendees to find you — get in front of them.

4. Galvanize your existing channels.
Using data to enhance your brand story around an event will fall flat if you neglect your existing channels, such as your website, partner websites, editorial content, and social media. Activate your brand in those channels. Candidly assess the effectiveness of your messaging in light of what you know about your customers and prospects. If your brand experience isn’t punching you in the face, you’re not making the most of those channels.

5. Measure, improve, repeat.

The main boon of data in the event space is that you can measure results and track improvement. You should collect data on traffic, revenue, and leads raised during and after the show. Track the results across shows and years to measure changes. Beyond that, constantly re-evaluate your target markets because they are subject to constant change. How else are you going to guarantee a better show next time?

It is essential to make data your friend when trying to create meaningful improvements to your event performance. Use it to get to know your attendees and their motivations, plot their event journeys, and help them understand and engage with your brand.

Need help getting in front of your attendees? Check out our exhibitions page for more information.


CEIR Examines Trade Shows for the Multi-Generational Workforce at ExhibitorLive

By Face to Face News

The existence of the contemporary multi-generational workforce is not news. What is of interest is the fact that trade shows are poised at the intersection of the generations, and in order to survive, they need to offer something for everyone.

How do marketers meet this challenge?

Nancy Drapeau, PRC has done extensive research on the subject as Research Director for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). Drapeau, (a young Boomer) and Amy Sondrup, Managing Director for Access TCA (and part of the millennial generation) will offer their insights into the CEIR data that explores this issue at ExhibitorLive in Las Vegas next week.

Their session, “How Does Your Exhibit Program Stack Up in a Multi-generational World?” (R315) will identify ways that trade shows can remain relevant as younger generations move into the ranks of corporate management.

Though an interactive approach covering research trends and best practice examples, session attendees will learn which aspects of exhibiting work well across generations and which preferences will need to shift to meet the needs of younger professionals. Topics will cover:

  1. Attracting attendees to a booth
  2. Attendee engagement in a booth
  3. Exhibit booth staffing approaches
  4. Onsite activities outside the booth that boost the impact of exhibiting

How Does Your Exhibit Program Stack Up in a Multi-generational World?” (R315) will be presented on Thursday, March 3, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. as part of the sales and marketing track. Click here for more details about ExhibitorLive.


What’s in the CEIR Research Pipeline for 2016?

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

CEIR Census

In a previous post, I provided an overview of research completed in 2015, now let me share research plans for this year, which by all accounts is aggressive! CEIR strives to conduct research in a broad range of areas to help industry stakeholders – exhibition organizers, exhibitors, attendees, destinations, venues and other suppliers – keep pace with evolving trends.

New Digital Toolkit Series – This multi-part study takes a comprehensive look at digital tactics attendees value and expect during their attendee journey and compares these preferences to what exhibition organizers and exhibitors use or offer. Results from this research reveal where exhibition organizer and exhibitor offerings align with attendee preferences and where they miss the mark. It is a practical resource for benchmarking and prioritizing digital efforts.

Four focus reports are included in this study series:

  1. Now available! Organizer Pre-event Communications & Registration Offerings
  2. Exhibitor Offerings
  3. Exhibition Organizer Onsite and Post-event Offerings
  4. Attendee Technology Profile

The quinquennial (that’s a mouthful!) edition of the CEIR Census is now available. Just published at the end of January, this document is updated every five years. It is a treasure trove for convention center facilities, venues, business development professionals and anyone tasked with analyses looking to define the size of the exhibition industry in North America overall, by country or by region. FMI, go here.

For those thirsting for exhibition industry performance the newest edition of the CEIR Index will be released in April. This report is the leading industry resource tracking overall market performance of business-to-business exhibitions overall as well as by 14 industry sectors.

Provided below is an overview of the additional research efforts slated for the year. So, keep a watch for reports that will be produced based on findings from each effort. Also, take a moment and visit the newly redesigned CEIR web site. We have made it easier than ever to search reports and find the data that is most important to you.

Attendee Retention Study Series When it comes to gauging the success of an exhibition, the first measure is the event’s ability to attract a quality audience. This success begets exhibitor retention and loyalty. This study will identify the key factors which prompt professionals to become a repeat/loyal attendee as well as organizer best practices that generate high attendee retention rates.
Repeat of Changing Environment of Exhibitions Study Last done in 2011, this popular study generated multiple fact sheets articulating the power of exhibitions from the perspective of exhibitors. This initiative will update data, profiling the areas where exhibitions deliver value in supporting exhibitor marketing and sales objectives. It will also quantify commitment to the exhibition channel in the next several years.
Cost to Attract Attendees Study Last done in 2012, this study provides organizers with metrics on the cost to attract qualified attendees. In addition to quantifying costs metrics, overall as well as by type of organizer and by event demographics, this study also identifies which tactics are most effective in drawing qualified attendees.
Floor Interaction/ Attendee Engagement Preferences Study Following a two-phased research approach involving qualitative and quantitative research efforts, this study will identify the most popular and effective methods used to interact and engage with attendees on the exhibition floor, from both the perspective of activities in exhibit booths and activities in organizer-sponsored spaces on the exhibition floor.
How to Grow Attendance – Best Practices Organizers are constantly striving to find ways to retain and grow their attendee bases in competitive markets. Which tactics are most commonly used in attendee marketing to maximize the outcome of a campaign and most importantly, which tactics work best? This study will document industry benchmarks on key elements of attendee marketing campaigns and identify which tactics are effective in retaining and growing an event’s attendee base.
Industry Insight Series Reports Leading industry experts offer practical advice on how to maximize the success of exhibiting. Topics will address strategic and logistical aspects of exhibiting.

CEIR 2015 Research in Review

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

Another year has concluded. Hoping all of you had an enjoyable holiday season. Now it’s time to get back to business!

CEIR conducted many studies last year. To help determine which new reports may be of use to you, l have summarized 2015 activities below.

Market Performance Focus: Each year the CEIR Index is updated, the most current report documents historical performance from 2000 to 2014 and a three-year forecast for 2015 through 2017. It is the leading industry resource tracking overall market performance of business-to-business exhibitions in the United States. It offers a valuable tool for strategic planning, benchmarking and evaluating business development opportunities.

Exhibitor Focus: Several reports are available, offering metrics for benchmarking activities and an inside view of what young brand marketer exhibitors think about trade shows.

  • The Marketing Spend Decision Study tracks the percentage allocation of marketing budget spending across all channels among companies that exhibit at business-to-business exhibitions, statistics are provided across several years. Results document the staying power of the trade show channel, which captures the largest share of exhibitor marketing budgets. It also reports multiyear trends relating to number of exhibitions participated in and booth size.
  • A new landmark study was added to the CEIR library. This report quantifies the extent of use of ROI and other performance metrics by exhibitors for evaluating the outcome of exhibiting. Users identify metrics where they find exhibitions perform best: 2015 Exhibitor ROI and Performance Metrics Practices
  • To assess the future outlook of the industry from the vantage point of young exhibitors, SISO commissioned the 2015 Young Professional Exhibitor Needs and Preferences Study. Spoiler alert: the outlook is positive though young exhibitors will demand value, organizers take notice!

Attendee Focus: For readers needing guidance for attendee marketing and event content development and a way to determine if attendees in their sector have unique preferences or are in line with trade show attendee preferences in general, this report can help, Industry Sector Infographic on What Attendees Want Study Results. Each topic area is summarized in quick to read infographics: preferences for information sources relied upon when searching for exhibitions to attend, reasons for attending, pre-event preparation activities, and exhibition floor preferences.

Data Analytics Usage by Exhibition Organizers: This is one of the hottest topic areas that businesses across sectors continue to grapple with. Access to treasure troves of data has never been easier and the array of analytic tools have exploded, offering many ways to jump into the analytics game. When dione well, analytics helps businesses save money and gain business advantage over competitors. So, what is the state of the exhibition industry relating to analytics, are organizers jumping into the fray or are they staying on the sidelines? Among those actively engaging analytics, for which purposes are analytics used most extensively and where are analytics delivering results? Two CEIR reports offer answers:

Use of Analytics Today by Business-to-Business Exhibition Organizers

Use of Analytics by Business-to-Business Exhibition Organizers Case Studies

Industry Insight Series Reports: Formerly called Guru Reports, these reports offer practical advice written by leading industry experts to help exhibitors maximize their exhibiting success. Four new reports published last year include:

Managing for Results: Benchmarks for Exhibit Growth by Barry Siskind

Separating Signal from the Noise – How to Make Your Emails Better by Jason Falls

The Right Place to Exhibit – A Strategic Approach by Barry Siskind

Best Practices for Exhibit Booth Design – for Companies of All Sizes by Justin Hersh

In addition to the reports published in 2015, fielding of two additional studies was completed. Analysis of results is underway with reports rolling out in 2016:

  1. Digital Toolkit to Enhance the Attendee Experience report series, will include several focus reports highlighting attendee digital technology preferences at different stages of their customer journey and compares how well organizers and exhibitors are faring in meeting these needs.
  2. Building a loyal attendee base is essential to the health and growth potential of any exhibition. This study, based on a sampling of over 6,000 attendees from 23 of the top 250 trade shows in the U.S. provides a snapshot of key demographics and preferences. Results of these attendee profiles will be compared to organizer perceptions of who they believe their repeat attendees are and efforts they engage in to build a loyal attendee base. This comparative exercise will offer organizers a practical way to compare their event practices to industry norms, as well as a framework to identify strengths and opportunities of current attendee retention efforts.

Have a question or want to learn more, feel free to email me at Cheers and wishing you all a happy, successful and peaceful New Year!



Transforming One’s Trade Show – Call to Action to EVOLVE!

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, CEIR

CEIR Predict was a phenomenal event this year. Presenters challenged attendees to push the boundaries of how they think about their events, what goals they should strive to achieve, and what this means about how the trade show model needs to evolve. Commentary spanned from real world examples on how today’s organizers and exhibitors ‘knock the socks’ off those who attend their events and futuristic thinking, a call-to-action to experiment, to evolve.

CEIR Predict header_w_title-sponsor

There were two presenters that really forced Predict attendees to think beyond today. Their role was to plant the seed, motivate a call-to-action to innovate. They didn’t give the solution. They challenged trade show leaders to experiment and find a new path forward. World renown designer Bruce Mau discussed the power of invisible design, and how the trade show floor is ripe for evolution to a new reality. Marc Pomerleau, VP of Strategy at Freeman XP intertwined the evolution of human society from early times to today, advancements in philosophy, the industrial revolution to today’s technological advancements which he argues increases the power of face-to-face marketing. He asserted that technology has created a heightened sense of alienation of individuals, that it increases the need, the desire to connect face-to-face. This assertion is not the first time I have heard this. Back in college, I recall this statement being made, relating to evolving philosophical and political thinking in the 16th century, pre-industrial revolutionary times. So here we are in the 21st century with all our gadgets, which connect us on one level to each other, but not in the physical space. We are humans and crave that connection. I agree with Marc, digital heightens the need, the craving for communities to connect face-to-face. Digital and exhibition channels complement each other.

still waitingIn CEIR’s Generational Differences in Face-to-Face Interaction Preferences and Activities, it was found that interacting online prompted attendance to business-to-business exhibitions, the younger the attendee, the higher the percentage indicating this.

Pomerleau and Mau argue that today, the face-to-face medium needs to ‘transform,’ evolve with changing norms. The trade show format has not changed much since its hey days of the 1970’s. Perhaps it is time to do so. How to evolve the trade show floor in a way that retains and perhaps even grows profit and delivers a profound experience for both brand marketers and professional attendees? The message of Predict is that organizers need to transform or disrupt themselves, before someone else does…. Though what does that mean? Where and how can trade show organizers evolve?

  • To take on this challenge, an organizers needs to understand two things:
    1. What is the core essence, value about the trade show medium that is unchanging? Organizers need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water.
    2. What aspects of a trade show are not core, can change? It is in these areas where organizers need to experiment.

Let me assert the core values of a business-to-business exhibition based on CEIR research:

  • Connecting attendees with product – ability to touch, feel, smell, test-drive, evaluate the products in-person, in the physical space. One example I love to give is the World of Concrete’s demonstration area. They give attendees the chance to rip up concrete, test drive jack hammers, experience new product. Does it get any more visceral than that? If you’re an organizer, how does that example apply to your industry?
  • Connecting attendees with people – the people behind a product, product experts, product designers, industry experts, peers, mentors. PEOPLE.
  • Learning/education – this is accomplished in many ways – via attending education sessions, interactions with industry experts, product experts, peers, etc. In many industries, professionals attend to satisfy certification needs though the core essence, value is the power of what is learned or the power of how much is learned, accomplished.
  • Serendipity – the real-time, interaction of people and product generate experiences and learnings that the attendee didn’t expect to takeaway. Connecting with an individual in a similar work role who turns out to be a mentor, a life-long friend who helps the individual and his or her organization advance. The discovery of a product that addresses a current challenge that an organization is facing. It can be for a challenge that wasn’t even on the attendee’s radar before going to the show.

The gist of this blog is this, be brave, dare to experiment, evolve your event, begin to generate new concepts, test them, and if they show promise, expand the concept more broadly into your event. EVOLVE!

Want to take a deep dive into CEIR reports that may help in strategic planning? Here is a laundry list of recently released reports. Happy reading! If you have any questions, reach out to me at I am happy to point you to CEIR studies that can answer your information needs.

Attendee Focused Research

Quick Guide on Attendee Preferences by Industry Sector

2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study

Exhibition Floor Interaction: What Attendees Want

Purchase Process and Customer Relationships

Exhibitor Focused Research

Best Practices for Exhibit Booth Design – For Companies of All Sizes

2015 Exhibitor ROI and Performance Metrics Practices

2015 Young Professional Exhibitor Needs and Preferences Study

The Marketing Spend Decision