Understanding Attendee Behavior

Here is a terrific piece on trade show attendee behavior that company exhibit managers should find helpful…

Whether you’re a planner charged with organizing your association’s trade show, a show manager or an exhibitor, when you understand the behavior of show attendees, it becomes easier to provide value to all concerned. Here are a few suggestions for enhancing the quality of your event based on the behavioral statistics of attendees compiled by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, and some tips to flesh them out from exhibitor consultant Susan Ratliff, of Susan Ratliff Presents, LLC.
• 65% come back to the same trade shows year after year looking for what’s new. They want solutions to their problems and suppliers with answers. Attendees will pack the hall if your mix of exhibitors includes recognizable companies along with newcomers that offer a variety of new products, new services and industry innovations.
• 76% arrive with an agenda. Budgets are tight these days, and it is making a difference in attendee behavior. Many companies are attending fewer shows, sending fewer attendees and shortening their stay. They are preparing in advance, researching the exhibitors before they go to the show, targeting which companies to visit, reviewing the floor plan to plot their route around the hall and previewing the program to select which speakers or activities to enjoy during their limited time. Show organizers, make it easy for them to plan by including the information they need on your website (the more sophisticated websites display the floor plan and list the exhibitor when the curser rolls over the booth space). Provide links to the exhibiting companies, an accurate floor plan, detailed descriptions of the presentations, bios on the speakers and a detailed schedule of activities and events.
• 55% come to network. Offer matchmaker services like Lunch with Strangers, schedule mixers between attendees and exhibitors, and add a Meet the Speakers reception. Fill open spaces throughout the exhibit hall with lounge areas where people can sit and chat. Provide a way for groups to connect online, through Pathable, Meetup or Twitter.
• 53% attend for continuing education credits and certifications. Attendees want to be educated as well as entertained in a fun atmosphere, and a trade show is the perfect place to do that. Provide a stage inside the hall where industry experts from your exhibiting companies can present seminars or demonstrations, offer required renewal hours for their organization or industry, classes for licensing, food preparation and government requirements like safety training. Also, use RFID technology to tally attendance at sessions to help apply their credits.
• 36% are first-time attendees. First-timers are the hardest attendees to attract; they need an incentive to get them to try your show. You can offer online training before the show, a live workshop during the show or simply provide a tip sheet on your website with ways for maximizing their return on investment.
• 35% will share what they learn with 4–6 other people. Consider an incentive program for attendees to encourage referrals.
• 83% buy something. Tell your exhibitors that statistics prove that attendees do come ready to buy.
• 94% compare competing products. A great statistic to support why exhibitors need to be there. If your competitors exhibit year after year, the show must be profitable. You need to be there, too.

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