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: http://www.ceir.org/attendee-retention-insights

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