By Vicki Hennin, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Business Intelligence, Diversified Business Communications
It was with great interest that I read CEIR’s recent report Attracting Attendees and was intrigued to see some findings that reflect the experience we have had at Diversified Business Communications, as well as some key insights that brought up interesting questions for me and other event organizers to consider.
Even in the industries where Diversified organizes the largest events and has a large database from our digital and print communities, we find that 50 percent to 80 percent of the attendees at our trade exhibitions each year did not exist in our database prior to the event! Internally, we call this metric “new vs knew.” Those who are “new” to us versus those we “knew.” When we first started tracking this in 2009, it surprised all of us. It has been confirmed so many times that it is now a hard statistic to argue.
Where do these attendees come from?
This new CEIR report sheds a little light on how this happens. Findings reveal the top four most important sources of information used when selecting which exhibitions to attend are email from a colleague, word of mouth, exhibition website and personal invite from an exhibitor. It is important to note that none of these are direct marketing sources initiated by the organizer. The exhibition website and some of how people get there (through SEO, SEM) is under the influence of the organizer, but the event website is primarily a marketing source that attracts attendees indirectly. Our own research aligns with the CEIR report findings: we find that the top source driving attendance is exhibitor invitations. Attracting Attendees findings (and our own research) remind us of how important it is for us to help our exhibitors understand the value of inviting their customers to the event.
We don’t have a lot of data about how our attendees preplan for our events, though we do implement a number of programs to drive verification. The fact that 94 percent of the CEIR respondents say they preplan their event, and more than 50 percent of them say they do all of these: registering for an education session or workshop, searching the exhibitor directory or registering for special events, highlights several places where the organizer has direct influence over providing onsite “content” to engage the attendee. The statistic that jumped out at me is that 42 percent of attendees register for a drawing or prize before an event. In this age of limited time and competing priorities, these old tactics of incentives still work.
Another interesting data point is that 70 percent of attendees use the printed exhibition directory for onsite show planning and scheduling, while 30 percent indicated using electronic versions. We are beginning to see the transition to digital in our industries – especially in the large events where the guide is bulky to carry. I wonder if the data reflects a different adoption rate because organizers are still refining their electronic model? We have trained our attendees over the years to expect and use a printed directory…or a little bit of both.
The report, Attracting Attendees, has a lot of key data and insightful observations. Definitely worth reading.
Vicki Hennin is the VP of Strategic Marketing & Business Intelligence at Diversified Business Communications, a multi-national event, publishing and eMedia company located in Portland Maine. She serves on the CEIR Research Committee and is an active member of American Business Media.