New B2B Events Survey Shows Important Gender Preferences

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According to a new B2B survey from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), men tend to focus on exhibitors and the new products being unveiled when attending events, while women have a stronger desire for educational content and networking.

The findings are from the sixth installment of CEIR's Attendee ROI Playbook Series, titled Gender Differences and Similarities, and reflects the voices of B2B show organizers from various industry sectors.

"There are a number of nuanced differences for organizers and exhibitors to pay attention to [here], and one 'ah-ha' for me is the importance of learning for women," said Cathy Breden, CEIR CEO.

The results could directly affect how publishers market their events. The biggest gender variances for event attendance include:

  • inspiration/motivation/recharge (23% higher for women)
  • seminars/speakers (19% higher for women)
  • experience factor (17% higher for women).
  • prospecting for suppliers (7% higher for men);
  • build/maintain relationships with suppliers/exhibitors (6% higher for men);
  • see/experience new tech (4% higher for men); and
  • find a solution to an existing problem (2% higher for men).

In their attendee ROI/value card, women gave more importance to the following categories:

  • Level of inspiration/motivation the event provided me.
  • Quality of special events/activities.
  • Ability to participate, interactive sessions.
  • Education that helps me to advance my career.

Categories that men ranked higher than women include:

  • Identify new products/new technologies.
  • Communication with vendors

"Career stages are apt to vary for women over the course of their lifetime," Breden said. "For younger women, learning is important to help advance their fledgling careers. For some women who are reentering the workforce after their children reach a certain age, it is a setting to jumpstart careers."

Women also share a value with millennials—the importance of the experiential. Given that shared emphasis, the report predicts that experience soon will be top-ranked regardless of gender. "All aspects of an exhibition need to be evaluated for how they can be modified to respond to this need—event and booth design, meeting spaces, learning formats, and special events and activities." I would add interactivity, games, types of sessions, and connection to the event locale, both in terms of community building and enjoyment. 

Other elements of event marketing that should increase are testimonials and peer reviews. For women, information from their peers is ranked second over information from vendors. The report posits that the elevation of peers as a trusted information source reflects our lack of overall trust. And given today's reliance on peer reviews for buying just about anything, "it is evident that peer power continues to grow. Organizers and exhibitors need to respond to this to maximize the value they can deliver to attendees."

According to the report, this response should include:

  • More face-to-face opportunities at events. "How can experiences be personalized in a way that resonates with men and women to inspire them?"
  • "Helping attendees to find and connect with one another and exchange peer reviews on what is being showcased on an exhibition floor. Can these connections be done real-time? Is there a way to generate buzz via digital crowdsourcing or reactions?"
  • "Engaging exhibitors to participate. How can they benefit from this engagement via social media to maximize the propagation or broadcast power of peer reviews coming from an exhibition floor?"

One other telling difference: 65% of women "pre-plan" which sessions to attend while just 46% of men do. Conversely, 47% of men pre-plan meeting with exhibitors vs. just 32% of women.

You can download the report here.

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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…