Drive more attendance and increase attendee ROI at your next event

By:  Ray Luca, Event Advisory Group Partner

A successful tradeshow has to serve the needs of both the exhibitors and attendees.  So, what motivates professionals to spend the time and money to attend events?  According to a recent ASAE Foundation research report, Current and Emerging Trends of Trade Shows (completed in conjunction with Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research), attendees go for different reasons than exhibitors:

TOP 5 MOTIVATIONS FOR ATTENDING A TRADESHOW:

  1. Attend educational sessions
  2. Review/learn about new products and services
  3. Network with industry peers
  4. Attend panel discussions, speaker sessions, and/or workshops
  5. Enhance relationships with existing partners/associate

Specifically, attendees make decisions based on these factors:

Education draws attendees. For attendees, learning programs were the top factor in their decision to attend, along with networking and relationship activities.

Location, location, location:  Large or midsize U.S. cities are best. When it comes to location, attendees prefer large or midsize U.S. cities over resort locations or international destinations.

Time and money matters. Total costs including registration, travel, and lodging are a primary concern for attendees. Even a 5 or 10 percent decrease in cost relative to average expenditure was consistently rated by attendees as highly motivating to attend a particular tradeshow.

Duration:  Regardless of their role, respondents all favored an event of two to three days. They want to come in, do their business, make connections, and leave. If the event is shorter than two days, they don’t have time to conduct their business; if it’s longer than three days, the event becomes stale and people leave early.

Bigger is better—to a point. Attendees generally preferred larger tradeshows and found attendance levels of 1,000 or 2,000 unfavorable, and gave positive ratings to a conference with 4,000 attendees. After the size of the show reaches 5,000 people, it declines in attractiveness for attendees.

Personal connections count. The ability to meet, exchange ideas, and forge partnerships face to face is a unique value that tradeshow organizers provide their participants. When asked to rank their motivations for attending recent tradeshows, enhancing relationships with existing partners and associates and networking with industry peers was in the top five for attendees.

As you plan your next trade show or conference, you may want to consider these ideas to optimize your attendance and improve satisfaction:

  1. Conduct surveys with your attendees to determine the top large and mid-size cities they are willing to travel; learn about their current educational needs; and find out how they want to connect to exhibitors, speakers, and attendees pre-show, onsite, and after the event.
  2. Conduct a 360 degree review of all aspects of your event to find operational efficiencies to reduce costs for attendees, identify new partnerships and speakers that can expand the education program to keep it fresh and on the cutting edge, and better contract negotiations that allow your organization to hold your event at top tier cities while maintaining profits.
  3. Create highly targeted communications that highlight the value of the event, travel options, and specific education and networking opportunities based on attendee roles, geographic location, and other demographic selects.
  4. Highlight the opportunities for attendees to engage in distinctive learning programs and provide plenty of opportunities to forge fruitful connections with their peers and exhibitors by offering pre-show appointment setting, onsite one-on-one meetings, networking events, and other programs that connect attendees to the exhibitors, speakers, and peers they want to meet.
  5. Leverage event technologies to help facilitate networking and connections to improve attendee ROI and satisfaction.
  6. Negotiate with top tier city CVBs and hotels to lower costs and reduce the risk of attrition.

You can read more about the research here:  https://www.asaecenter.org/resources/articles/foundation/2016/what-drives-tradeshow-attendance