Decoding the DNA of a Good Trade Show

What would happen if we reset the events industry to zero? There are no shows booked years in advance and no opportunities to meet customers and prospects face-to-face. This is the unimaginable experiment we all found ourselves in 2020.

While on the treadmill of a typical event cycle, it can be hard to make a strategic assessment of which shows are working and which are not. But these are atypical times. Now is when you should decide which events should remain a core part of your marketing strategy. Here are four key components to help you decide which trade shows will help you achieve your objectives in 2021 and beyond.

1. Meeting your objectives

The top three objectives of trade show exhibitors are increasing brand position, increasing brand awareness and generating new sales leads. To maximize your probability of picking the best shows to go forward, focus on who understands what you want to get out of their event.

Our studies suggest that when event organizers pro-actively offer strategic advice through exhibitor training, the experience improves. This is critical for virtual events. We at Explori have found that both exhibitors and buyers are struggling to get familiar with the different platforms and how to get the most out of them. Networking online is still a new and unfamiliar skill set and requires facilitation.

2. Using technology to drive meaningful interactions between exhibitors and visitors

Despite mixed views about the success of virtual events, they have proven to be an effective way of reaching new audiences. Attendees report they are 84% more likely to attend an event for the first time on a digital platform than going to a physical event for the first time. This suggests that events that include a virtual element will be able to introduce exhibitors/ sponsors to a wider audience. In order to do this effectively, it’s important to know the relative strengths and weaknesses of virtual.

In March 2020, we started benchmarking virtual attendee experience to better understand the staying power of virtual events. We then compared the benchmarks to over 3 million data points we’ve collected on the live attendee experience.

Key virtual benchmarks for attendees include:

●  Overall satisfaction: Attendees are equally satisfied with virtual events.

●  Net Promoter Score: Attendees give conferences a score of +16, but webinars a higher score of +46. (The scale is from -100 to +100, and a score of more than 0 indicates they have more promoters than detractors.)

●  Value for time: Attendees say webinars and virtual trade shows are better value for time compared to F2F events.

Does this mean that attendees think virtual events are better? Not entirely. Attendees believe virtual events are just as good for content delivery as in-person events. They also scored virtual as being better value for money. However, attendees have an overwhelming preference for F2F when it comes to networking, the overall event experience and doing business. This suggests that events that play to the strengths of both live and virtual will see more success.

Participating in shows with a virtual component can extend the value of the show beyond the few days of the physical event. This can present more opportunities to meaningfully engage with contacts through chat, online speed networking, hosted roundtable discussions and more.

3. Demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability

In the ICEINSIGHTS 2020 report, 70% of respondents said ensuring the sustainability of their events is a key challenge they hope to tackle in the next three years. Our research also found that one in three exhibitors would not exhibit at a show with poor approach to sustainability. Talk to organizers about their sustainability policies. What steps are they taking to minimise their carbon footprint?

4. Measuring the success of your event

While measurement is key to understanding which events are performing best, many struggle to measure the impact of their events in any meaningful way. You want to understand whether or not this event made attendees more likely to complete a desired action.

Integrate your lead capture data with your survey to ask booth visitors questions related to your impact objectives. Did they learn more information about what products/services the business offers? Are they any more likely to purchase your products or services because of the event?

2021 and beyond

As you look at the options available this year, consider the four key components of a successful trade show. Does the show know your objectives and have they advised you on how to meet those objectives? How are they using technology to facilitate meaningful connections? Do they have a strong commitment to sustainability? How will you measure success? If you implement consistent measurement tools, you can make comparisons across all the events you organize and attend. The result is clarity – a  clear answer of which events make the biggest difference to your organizational objectives.

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