Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

What’s Driving Exhibition Attendance Now

The outlook for the exhibition industry is strong for 2019-2020, with more than half of respondents to a recent Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) survey saying they plan to continue attending the same number of shows and more than a quarter saying they are putting even more expos on their schedule over the next few years. Only 9 percent said they plan to decrease their event participation from the average of four shows they attended in the past two years, according to the fourth installment of CEIR’s 2018 Attendee ROI Playbook series: Attendance Today and 2019-2020 Outlook.

A primary reason given by those who plan to boost the number of shows they attend is that they need to do so because they were taking on new job responsibilities that make going to more shows necessary. More than a quarter cited educational reasons — such as keeping up on trends; enhancing job-related skills; and learning about new products, services and business opportunities — for increasing their participation.

Most of those who aren’t planning to change the number of shows they go to said they were satisfied with the way the events they currently attend meet their business needs. They also said the time and cost of attending aligned with what they have available for business travel.

Those who were unsure about future attendance also were unsure about what their jobs would require over the next couple of years and whether they’d have the funding to attend. Other reasons included the accessibility and convenience of the show’s location and not having the time to take out of the office to travel to exhibitions. Factors that would make them go to more shows include worthwhile educational and business opportunities, while shows that don’t promise to have much new in store would push them over the fence to decreasing their attendance.

About a third of the 9 percent who said they plan to decrease their tradeshow attendance said the decision was due to funding issues or an inability to meet their business needs at B2B events. Inconvenient scheduling and locales also were factors, as was a lack of time to travel to shows. Seven percent said they are now able to get the information they would have gotten at an exhibition through online sources and so need to attend fewer on-site events.

While the majority of respondents — 80 percent — said they were relatively happy with the value they get from attending tradeshows, the remaining 20 percent offered ideas on how show organizers could tweak their events to make them more worthwhile to attend. Chief among these suggestions were improvements on the exhibit floor itself, including the number, relevance and quality of the exhibitor mix. These respondents also wanted to see more innovations on the show floor, including more interactive booth displays, better signage and more knowledgeable booth staff. The educational aspects also could use some attention, from offering a better variety of topics and more relevant sessions to employing more interactive and engaging session formats.

The previous installments to the 2018 Attendee ROI Playbook include Decision to Attend and Factors Driving Attendee ROI/Value; B2B Exhibitions Top-ranked for Value in Meeting Business Information & Purchasing Decision Needs; and Pre-Planning and Tracking Activities — Impact on Perceived ROI/Value of Attending. All four reports are available free of charge on the CEIR website. — Sue Pelletier

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