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  • A new CEIR report provides benchmarks for all phases of a marketing campaign and details characteristics for success in growing attendance.
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CEIR Study Looks at What Motivates an Attendee to go to Show

Sandi Cain
, Senior News Editor
April 14, 2014
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Dallas, TX - Exhibiting companies seek more than foot traffic in the exhibition hall — they want well-heeled foot traffic with purchasing power. How to draw those high-value visitors is the question.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) strives to answer that question in its new report, Attendee Preferences by Job Title, conducted by CEIR Research Director Nancy Drapeau and Jeff Tanner, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, Baylor University.

The new report is an outgrowth of the “What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions” study done a decade ago. It examines how executives want to experience exhibitions and what motivates them to visit an exhibitor’s booth.

For the 2014 study, CEIR divided potential attendees into four groups: executives (22%); upper management (11%); middle management (26%) and lower management and staff (42%). It then uses those categories to determine attendee preferences concerning their reasons for attending; whether the most important objectives when attending an exhibition are being met; the top factors that influence the decision to attend; and the information resources preferred in evaluating which exhibitions to attend. All replies are rated on a scale of 1-7, with seven the most important factor.

Reasons to Attend

When asked to rank 22 possible reasons to attend, all four groups expressed the same top three reasons: to shop, buy and learn, with varying levels of importance based on their position.

Top-level execs rated the importance of learning at 5.23; shopping 5.13 and buying 4.42. Middle management gave all three of those categories higher rankings than did upper management (5.04 vs. 4.97 for shopping; 4.27 vs. 4.18 for buying and 5.15 vs 5.03 for learning. Shopping and learning earned higher marks than buying among respondents in all four groups.

Important Shopping Factors

Exhibitors typically strive to influence potential buyers in the pre-purchase phase of decision-making, so the study also took a look at what specific attendee groups seek while they are shopping for products. 

Executives reported that the ability to see new technology, talk to experts and interact with new products are compelling features they seek. They also have a considerably higher interest in interacting with new products, finding solutions for existing problems, and meeting users of the products than was expressed by the other three levels of management respondents.

Upper management placed most importance on seeing new technology, talking to experts and seeing new product introductions.

Middle management respondents placed the highest value on new product introductions, while lower management respondents place the highest value on the ability to talk to experts at the show.

All respondents in the study generally concurred that their needs are being met for their top shopping objectives at exhibitions. But middle- and lower-management attendees were less satisfied than upper management and executives in some categories.

While 77% of executives believe their needs are met when seeking a solution for an existing problem, only 65% of lower management attendees were satisfied. Just 65% of middle-management and 64% of lower-management attendees believed their needs were met in gathering information for an upcoming purchase, compared to 77% of executives. And just 67% of middle-managers and 55% of lower-level managers reported satisfaction in meeting actual product users compared to 73% for executives.

Factors in Final Decision to Attend an Exhibition

The four groups agreed that the reputation of an exhibition is one of the top three factors in whether or not they decide to attend. All but upper management respondents agreed that the value for the money spent also is a top-three factor in their decision-making process. And all but middle managers agreed that the quality of speakers also is a top-three factor in their final decision.

Only executive-level attendees cited a convenient location as one of their top considerations, while upper management prospects were the only ones to consider networking potential as a top consideration. Middle managers were alone in citing the exhibition’s ability to help them acquire specific information for a particular issue, while lower-level management respondents were the only ones to consider current technology updates a key factor in their decision. Upper-level and middle management prospects both assigned high value to events focused on industry needs.

Bigger-picture sources of information about the event, such as word of mouth and industry sources like trade publications, also continue to influence decisions about which exhibitions to attend across all levels of management. Emails from colleagues and personal invitations from vendor salespeople also are strong influential factors across all groups, although emails from the organizer were only cited as influential by executive and upper management. However, organizer websites were cited as a source of information by middle and lower-management respondents.

Reach Nancy Drapeau at 207) 332-9839 or ndrapeau@ceir.org

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