Foundation Findings: More Attendees Are Paying Their Own Way to Get to Trade Shows Than You May Think

Author: David McMillin       

New research reveals that plenty of attendees are opening their own wallets to cover the cost of participating in B2B trade shows. Those personal expenses put more pressure on organizers to make their experiences worth the price tag.

Attending a trade show comes with a long list of expenses: airfare, hotel, meals, registration fees, and any other miscellaneous costs associated with being away from home. For attendees with employers who recognize the value of participating in an industry exhibition, those costs are covered. However, the 2018 Attendee ROI Playbook, a new report from CEIR, the Center for Exhibition Industry — sponsored by the PCMA Education Foundation and the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE) — reveals that a fair number of attendees are paying their own way to participate.

More than 3,700 attendees across 14 industry sectors submitted responses for the research, and the findings show that one in four trade show attendees shell out their own cash to see new products, attend educational sessions, and network with their peers. Some may interpret the figure as evidence of the importance of trade shows: If 25 percent of attendees are willing to pay hundreds — or in some cases, thousands — of dollars to explore an exhibit hall, it’s proof of the power of face-to-face trade shows. However, it’s also easy to make an argument that this level of personal investment should add even more pressure to organizers to deliver an experience that engages, inspires, and educates every attendee.

Do More Than Promote, Help Attendees Pre-Plan

If you want attendees to leave a trade show feeling satisfied, you have to help them long before they hit the exhibition floor. The research shows that attendees who spent time planning how to experience an exhibition before they arrived had higher net promoter scores (NPS) — the likelihood of recommending it to a colleague. With that in mind, organizers should find opportunities to help those who have already registered plan out the most productive ways to spend their time on-site. While much of event organizers’ pre-show activity typically involves marketing to prospective attendees, offering guidance to those who have committed to attend is equally crucial.

Looking for advice on how to attract more attendees to your trade show? Keep an eye out for the September issue of Convene for a wrap-up of the 2018 Attendee ROI Playbook, so you can make sure attendees maximize the return on their investment — no matter who’s paying the bill.

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