Press Releases

Press Releases

15 Aug 2014

Identifying, Attracting & Maintaining Show Attendees

By Dave Egan

Finding exhibitors for your show is the easiest part of the process. You know who they are, where they are and why they'd want to exhibit at your show. But with attendees, finding them, wooing them and keeping them around from one show to the next is by far the toughest part.

To get advice on how to do this, we turned to two seasoned show pros: Megan Tanel, CEM with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and Sam Lippman of Lippman Connects, producer of ECEF and the Attendee Acquisition Roundtables, Exhibit Sales Roundtables and Large Show Roundtables.

In research conducted by Exhibit Surveys and provided by Lippman Connects, nearly half of respondents consider identifying new attendee prospects as their greatest challenge. According to this February 2014 study, which reached out to more than 2,000 exhibition and event organizer professionals, most use their internal databases as their primary source for prospects, but also use an average of three additional list sources. The most common of these sources, for both association and independent organizers, is association membership lists. Partner lists, exhibitor lists and print publication lists were most often cited as sources of additional attendees.

Tanel explains the process she goes through to attract new attendees for her show: "What has worked for us is engaging with other organizations who represent the buyers within our industries. We can find common goals and objectives and then work collectively toward providing value to our memberships."

"Understanding your audience is key. Knowing what hot topics or issues are facing the group can help in developing value in the event. We target our attendees with messaging related to their needs within their jobs," she says. "One message does not fit all."

At the core of the acquisition process, according to Lippman, is "research, research and more research. You can do all your research and still make mistakes, like presenting your event in the wrong location. Or you could do the event at the wrong time of the year, when your industry's budget dollars have already been spent."

Exhibit Survey's research finds that most show organizers use a combination of direct mail, email and print ads. In fact, half of the respondents' marketing and promotion budgets are given to these three media. Lippman also reminds show organizers that "what's old is new again, especially personalized direct mail, because no one gets it anymore."

In her own outreach, Tanel claims, "We have seen an increase in success with social media--all digital platforms, really. And sharing more than just hard news has been key in the digital world: Utilizing 'top ten' facts, quizzes, and news about economic impact or trends and future-scaping have been successful."

Adding new attendees is important, but don't neglect your existing audience. To maintain that group, Tanel suggests, "Don't go silent after the event. Engaging with your audience where and when they want helps to keep you in thier minds, as well. The conversation and relationship should be part of a year-long plan. There's a timeline where you switch from the past show to the next one, but it needs to be interwoven throughout the overall plan."

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(Read the executive summary of Exhibit Survey's and Lippman Connect's Attendee Acquisition Metrics and Practices Study.)