Expectations In Exhibitions: What Attendees Really Want

In a time when everybody in the exhibition industry talks about innovation and how to be “fit to compete” we might be tempted to believe that technology will bring the solution to all challenges that exhibition organizers face. As stated in our recent UFI Post-Event Blog “providing digital value” is considered as one of the core topics that need to be addressed in the coming months and years and along with that the technology to support this.

No doubt, technology will continue to play a crucial role for exhibition organizers. We should however not neglect to further evaluate and innovate the way people meet face-to-face at an event. Do you know what your attendees expect from your exhibition? Do you transfer this information to your exhibitors so they can adapt their tradeshow planning? Have you thought of any innovations that relate to the human interaction on the show floor?

Shopping and Learning

Let’s start with the basics. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) conducted a study in 2013 looking at what motivates attendees to visit exhibitions. One main finding is that “They are seeking to meet both organizational and personal needs”. On top of the agenda is a mix of so called shopping needs (69%) and learning needs (66%). This means that attendees usually go to an exhibition with a mission to gather information for upcoming purchases. When looking to make a purchase, the leading reasons mentioned in the study are “seeing new technology, ability to talk to experts and new product introductions“.

On the other hand attendees are keen to satisfy personal interests. Top needs are “gaining industry trend insight, professional networking and better job performance.” Whereas learning needs can be addressed directly by the exhibition organizer through the content and design of the educational program, networking opportunities and shopping needs are more difficult to tackle as the cooperation of the exhibitor is required.

Meet the experts vs. a sales pitch

Have you shared these insights with your exhibitors? One central point for improving the attendee experience is the education and sensitization of the exhibitor. According to a CEIR whitepaper that has been presented at the 2013 Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum “exhibit staff tend to be in marketing, sales or executive management”. This aligns only partly with attendee preferences.

In addition to sales and executives, most attendees say they’d like more opportunity to meet with technical staff – those with the “deepest level of product knowledge”. The whitepaper illustrates nicely that, because technical staff is rarely represented at exhibitions, it causes the biggest gap between expectation and reality. While the elevator pitch might give enough information to attendees in an early buying stage a more consultative sales approach which focuses on listening to the attendees requirements before providing information might be a better tactic to lay the foundation for a future relationship.

What are you doing to encourage productive interactions between attendees and exhibitors? Have you tried any new ways of improving the attendee experience on the show floor? I’d love to discuss it further with you. Don’t hesitate to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter or simply send me an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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