Just last week, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released their latest report: Exhibition Floor Interaction: What Attendees Want. Not surprisingly, the key takeaway from the report was that interaction is the main attraction. People want to immerse themselves with the products and services showcased at the event.
In fact, exhibition attendees surveyed for the report wanted to see product demonstrations and have a hands-on experience with products (58%) more than they want to watch videos (16%) or participate in group discussions (22%). Once more, the value of face-to-face events is inarguable.
The report offered more than exhibition validation, though. There were a few interesting findings that I thought could provide exhibition organizers with a new perspective.
Many exhibition attendees want to be face to face…from a slight distance
While it seems to be counterintuitive to the whole “face to face” nature of exhibitions, the report showed that over half (55%) of attendees like to walk the floor and observe, and prefer to choose when to talk to exhibit staff. Interestingly, this holds even truer for female attendees: 61% of women prefer to initiate contact with vendors on their own.
As the CEIR report states, “Results indicate that some attendees do not like to go out of their comfort zone and limit interaction with people they know, while those who have an inclination to reach out to people known and unknown are apt to engage with vendors familiar and unfamiliar.”
From an exhibitor’s perspective, this means that it’s often a pretty significant step when an attendee walks into a booth without solicitation.
As an exhibition organizer, how are you going to encourage interactions? This is certainly something to ponder when laying out your exhibition floor plan and considering focus areas throughout the hall.
Help people take something home
As you know, the bustle of an exhibition can certainly make it hard for attendees to recall all of the people behind the handshakes and products within the booths. To this end, the CEIR report shows that 58% of exhibition attendees want info they can digest after the event.
While you can’t dictate the giveaways individual exhibitors provide, as an exhibition organizer you can consider ways to help make it easy for attendees to get information after the exhibition. For instance, you can allow exhibitors to place their documents and contact information on your event website for access before, during, and after the show.
Evolve your exhibition marketing offering – go beyond the show
As the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) notes in their article on the CEIR report, Jeff Tanner, professor of marketing at Baylor University and the study’s co-author, says, “Today’s empowered customer expects more from all marketing, and the same is true when they are attending an exhibition.”
Conventional direct marketing has turned digital. Yellow Page ads have essentially gone the way of the woolly mammoth. Marketing tactics evolve and get disrupted by new marketing tactics. Why would face-to-face events – one of the most powerful brand-building, product-selling, people-engaging tactics – be any different?
As an exhibition organizer, you not only offer people the opportunity to connect at your event. You are in a unique position to help facilitate these connections before and after the event, too. You have something exhibitors and sponsors covet – access to their future buyers. And you have something attendees covet – access to people who have solutions to their biggest problems. Imagine how much more value you could create through additional marketing offerings, pre-event exhibitor training programs, mobile app and event website strategies, and more.