Attendees and Organizers Agree, Differ on Some Key Event Desires

Share |

A new survey by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has revealed some interesting correlations and disconnects when it comes to events. It is especially something for SIPA members to take notice of because the respondents were 420 U.S.-based professionals who attend at least one B2B exhibition/conference each year.

In listing their most important conference aspects, just over 80% of attendees named free WiFi. Power-up stations to recharge mobile devices came in next at 71%, followed by the ability to download speaker presentations at 64%. Fortunately, exhibition organizers—in another survey they conducted—are on the same page, choosing those three as essential to their attendees.

But in other categories, the numbers didn't match up as neatly. A majority 55% of attendees say that they would like to see new product showcases or demo areas with interactive screens or tablets and product information—only 34% of exhibition organizers think their attendees desire this. Similarly, 60% embrace the opportunity to request product information by a scanning badge or giving an email address, but just 44% of exhibition organizers believe this to be valued.

Members who are wondering how to how to make events a cornerstone of their businesses, optimize event marketing, maximize revenue opportunities (including converting people to membership), invigorating their training program strategies will be attending our conference New Secrets of Successful Events and Webinars, April 7th in Boston. We have have some participating via webcast. 

It will also be interesting to hear event pros' thoughts on the conference of the future. In the CEIR survey, 34% of attendees said they would like access to a room with multiple screens where they could watch more than one session at a time—March Madness-style, I guess—but only 14% of organizers think of this as important to attendees. I'm trying to think what that would look like for SIPA's Annual Conference, June 6-8 in Washington, D.C., where, by the way, there will be an events track.

You'd have, say, five screens of breakout sessions. You couldn't have competing sound, so maybe the sound rotates for 5-minute intervals with each session—so you get a flavor of each one—and you could plug in earphones to listen to the one you want. Or maybe hearing five minutes would give you the impetus to head to that breakout room. As for the video, there's probably not an equivalent to the game score and time box now ubiquitous on every sports broadcast, but it could certainly have the name of the session and speakers posted in a corner.

In an overall assessment, CEIR President and CEO Brian Casey, noted that "there are gaps, opportunities for organizers to do an even better job to maximize an attendee's experience... Examples include attendee demand to make purchases through their mobile devices, the ability to register for special events and other offerings on-premise.

"Another area of opportunity is using attendee tracking technology to personalize the attendee experience. Today, few organizers are using it. This research reveals many attendees are comfortable with the use of this technology on the exhibition floor, particularly if it delivers value to them. A demand for personalized experiences will inevitably grow as they are offered these opportunities regularly in their everyday lives. Target Cartwheel, a new mobile app, is just one example of a retailer customizing coupon offers to a customer's profile. When will we see such experimentation in our industry?"

A full 87% of organizers offer a mobile app for their event. Organizers say on average, 42% of attendees download an app they offer—a pretty good number. Some of the app's key features include:

- Searchable exhibitor/product directory;
- Review of education sessions;
- Interactive map features;
- Ability to create a schedule;
- Find location of general or education sessions;- Receive alerts/reminders.

The CEIR report is available for purchase here.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…