This post written by Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Attending the ECEF Forum held in DC this week was a treat. Sam Lippman does a wonderful job convening industry leaders in one room, delivering an intensive day of lectures aimed at helping organizers strategize to assure success moving forward. The lecturers were thought-provoking and follow-up discussion in the halls interesting to participate in, to learn what resonated with executives.
One of the themes of this year’s program focused on what attendees want from exhibitions.
I was delighted to see this focus as it is a critically important area to which organizers and exhibitors must pay attention and respond to assure ongoing viability and growth of events and exhibit programs. It can easily be the case for business-to-business exhibitions that the primary focus remains on the revenue side, which tends to be the exhibitor-side of an exhibition. However, if the content does not match what the target attendee audience wants, well, that is a big problem! An event that ignores its attendee base is at risk of declining or losing out to another event that is paying attention.
The day also included a panel of actual attendees, to hear first-hand why they attend, what they value and do not like. Lots of great ideas shared! A number of comments made by the panelists affirm CEIR findings. Here are a few tidbits:
- A top-ranked shopping need articulated in CEIR research is that attendees come to find solutions to existing problems, that they want questions answered ‘on the spot.’ One attendee on the panel, a government staffer with substantial purchasing authority comes with this as an agenda item. And, exhibitors that meet that need have a chance for major business. She mentioned fervently looking for a piece of equipment that meant one million dollars in business for whoever won the sale. Government agencies need to spend budgeted monies before the end of their fiscal year. This can be a great opportunity. Though to win the job, exhibitors need to be poised to answer her many questions and be ready to respond quickly, as time is limited for her.
- Attendees pre-plan their events, many with pre-set meetings, looking to assure they achieve ROI for attending, time away from the office is precious, and they want to use it well. They seek to accomplish specific business objectives, whether to close deals, find ideas that convert into cost-savings and meet other business objectives. CEIR research documents that 94 percent engage in pre-planning activities.
- The government staff attendee also aims to attend or send staff to exhibitions that offer meaningful training. Again, CEIR notes that 66 percent of attendees come with learning needs to an event.
- All three panelists, when asked, what is unique about attending exhibitions that cannot be fulfilled through other channels is the networking opportunities – this is a setting where business takes place, face-to-face. Networking is one of the top ten ranked reasons why attendees come, according to CEIR research.
Sam invited me to write a white paper that would be relevant to this audience. Considering this theme, I wrote synthesis of key findings from two CEIR studies: What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions and The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction.
This report is available to those who are interested. To access this white paper, click HERE.