Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 09 2014

Why Attendees Will Skip Your Trade Show

By David McMillin


As trade show organizers work to deliver plenty of foot traffic for their exhibitors, a new survey from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research aims to educate trade show professionals about how they can prevent attendee loss. More than 400 attendees from a wide range of organizations participated in the research, and the findings reveal some simple steps that can help keep the show floor crowded year after year.

Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways.

Location, Location, Location 

It’s not always about what attendees can find at the trade show; it’s about where they have to go. An inconvenient location was the number one reason that attendees skip trade shows.

“For events that rotate locations, the solution is to assure future locations address what attendees want for convenience and cost,” Jeff Tanner, Ph.D, Professor of Marketing at Baylor University, and Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director at CEIR, write.

Part of that assurance can come from simply asking attendees for their feedback.

“A survey of attendees will also help guide future site selection, and will assure that site selection is driven by the most current wants and and preferences of the target audience, which may shift over time,” Tanner and Drapeau write. “Is it preference for city amenities, range of overnight stay accommodations, the ability to drive in or the type of facility or other preferences?”

Of course, some show organizers may have another worry: a fixed location that fails to attract attendees. In that case, Tanner and Drapeau recommend looking at ways to lower hotel costs or other travel expenses. However, making it cheaper may not be enough.

“It may be the case that a large enough contingent of target attendees disfavors the current location and merits considering moving the event elsewhere,” Tanner and Drapeau write.

SEE ALSO: How To Expand Your Trade Show Audience

Budget Is Still A Big Issue 

The economy may appear to be back on track, but many companies are still focused on reducing expenses. That focus is having a big impact on the number of attendees lining up to meet with exhibitors. Forty-three percent of respondents indicated that they skip trade shows because they are too expensive or not within their budgets. With cost standing out as a clear concern, show organizers should aim to offer perks that can make attending more affordable such as savings for booking within the hotel block or group discounts for sending multiple representatives from the same organization.

SEE ALSO: 4 Tips Every Trade Show Organizer Should Share With Exhibitors

Timing Is Everything

As professionals across every industry struggle with time management, trade shows can create more challenges for their calendars. Respondents ranked “took place on inconvenient days during the week” and “required too many days away” as two of the top reasons for skipping shows. While three days of networking and product demonstrations may be valuable, attendees are juggling loads of responsibilities in their offices, and three days can feel like an eternity.

Rather than force everyone to register for the entire trade show experience, Tanner and Drapeau suggest incorporating one-day passes and a la carte education-session registration fees. That flexibility can be especially appealing to regional attendees who can only afford to miss their regular routines for a very limited amount of time.

SEE ALSO: How To Expand Your Trade Show Audience

The complete report from CEIR includes many more useful insights, and it is available for free to all IAEE members. Click here to download the findings.

Looking for ways to improve the attendee experience at your trade show? Click here for a helpful webinar from PCMA on designing your show floor.

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