Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

Real-World Ways to Drive Attendance Now

A new CEIR report reveals 20 specific tactics organizations are using to drive attendance to pre-pandemic levels — and beyond.

Potential attendees’ in-boxes are already being stuffed to the brim with invitations, offers and a whole lot of spam — how can event organizers cut through all that digital clutter to get them to see, and hopefully open and respond to, their event marketing promotions? According to a new report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the tried-and-true tactics still are the most effective. However, you may need to put a 2023 spin on them.

“Marketing Channel Mix, Messaging and Other Tactics,” CEIR’s second report in its new series on attendee acquisition trends, explores the real-world tactics B2B exhibition marketers are finding most effective in boosting attendance in today’s crowded, post-pandemic world. Not surprisingly, the report found that those who are most successful at cutting through the clutter will ultimately be most successful at driving attendance — if they don’t see your message, obviously the effort is doomed from the start. But just getting them to open the email is just the first step. If you do manage to cut through all that noise and get them to open your pitch, if it doesn’t speak directly to their specific needs, into the deleted file it inevitably will go.

So what new and exciting ways are event marketers getting their messages read and responded to? Interestingly, CEIR found that what works best now likely will be pretty familiar to anyone who’s been promoting expo attendance to both first-timers and repeat attendees for a while. And most begin with the tried-and-true adage of starting by knowing your attendees so you can meet them where they are and tell them exactly how what you’re offering will meet their specific needs.

However, while the old-time surveys and focus groups are also still in the mix, the B2B expo marketers today tend to take a more omni-channel approach to identifying the various target demographics. This means that, in addition to sending out those surveys, savvy marketers today also are taking a deep dive into their social media channels and using at least some of the currently available digital marketing tools to identify their various target niches and craft messages that will resonate with them — and get them to register.

Once the core target audience segments are identified, today’s successful event marketers are creating customized, personalized pitches that they can’t help but find irresistible. An added bonus is that the event organizer also creates a deeper connection with each segment when it shows that it not only knows who they are, but also can give them exactly what they need now.

Another successful tactic is to meet them where they are in a more literal sense by doing a deep dive into how attendees prefer to consume media. That could be via traditional channels, such as direct mail and email, or it could be via social media and other digital channels.

Among the other 20 real-world tactics that work, the report says, are working with exhibitors and sponsors to create collaborative outreach to their customers who are also your potential attendees. Collaborating with key buyers and other affinity groups also still works to entice attendees to register, as does the strategic deployment of discounts and exhibitor invitation programs.

As in-person trade shows continue to rebound more with every quarter, it may be tempting to assume that “if you build it, they will come.” And they may — at least some of them. But an omni-channel, well-thought-out event marketing program that focuses on the fundamentals will go a long way toward both rebuilding an organization’s attendee base and tapping into new and emerging target audiences.

The report, which can be downloaded free for CEIR members, is available to non-members for $49 on the CEIR website.

What’s working for you? Share your thoughts and attendee acquisition success strategies by contacting Sue Pelletier at

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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