Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 10 2014

How To Expand Your Trade Show Audience

By David McMillin



Every show organizer knows that exhibitors want fresh faces on the floor. Their booths can’t simply help them reconnect with old customers. They need to return home from the show with new leads and new potential business opportunities. As show organizers work to attract those new attendees, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research conducted a survey of more than 400 exhibition attendees from 14 industries to get a sense of why they attend trade shows for the first time and what impacts their registration decision-making.

SEE ALSO: What Attendees Want From Exhibitors

First off, the good news: 15 percent of respondents reported their exhibition attendance will increase. While that number may sound small, it still represents a growth opportunity for show organizers who can demonstrate why the action on the show floor can’t be missed.

However, these attendees only have so much time on their calendars. Of those who plan to make more trips in 2014, the average respondent plans to attend just four trade shows.

How can you make sure your show is on the short list?

Jeff Tanner, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, Baylor University, and Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, CEIR, believe trade show organizers must work to embrace today’s socially-driven world.

“Word-of-mouth sources and personal invites hold sway with this target audience,” Tanner and Drapeau write.

An email from a colleague, a vendor invitation and word-of-mouth ranked as the top three sources when selecting a new trade show to attend. The reputation of an event was the number one reason that new audience members ultimately make the decision to invest their time and money to attend.

“Factors such as reputation of an event and perceptions of value for the money are likely to be the result or at least in part through social media,” Tanner and Drapeau write.

SEE ALSO: Should Trade Show Organizers Be Worried?

What does the Age of Online Reviews mean for trade shows?

Today’s prospective attendees are accustomed to trusting peer reviews on products, restaurants and hotels, and that practice extends to trade shows and meetings. They can easily see what past attendees are saying about their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s essential that show organizers monitor all of this online chatter and work to shape a positive conversation.

Where else should you look for new attendees?

Recruiting new attendees means looking in new places, too. For US trade show organizers, it’s important to make that word-of-mouth buzz travel much further than normal. There are many prospective attendees waiting in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Now is the time to outline a strategy that can get attendees around the whole world talking about your next show. Click here for a video from IAEE to see how other show organizers are tapping into the international marketplace.

Interested in learning more about building your international attendee base? Click here for a webinar on international marketing strategies for your next show.

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