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January 6, 2009

Originality key to attracting exhibition visitors, says EC&O survey

One of the dominating factors in determining trade show visit levels, and the value placed on attendance by visitors, is the element of ‘newness’, according to recent research.

The survey is the first in a series of studies into the £9.3 billion exhibition market (AEO Economic Impact Study, November 2005) carried out by EC&O Venues, which owns London venues Earls Court and Olympia.

‘Newness’ was defined in the report as any of the following: new product, new suppliers, new market opportunities or new business techniques, and 85% of respondents focused on one or more of these definitions as a fundamental influence on their decision to visit a trade show.

Newness was also found to be a crucial factor determining propensity to revisit, reflected in a 45% drop-off of visitors who did not feel that a show offered sufficient new content, features or innovation.  

Helping organisers

Specifically undertaken to analyse the contributory factors in successful trade exhibitions, the research draws on visitor feedback reflecting the experiences of attendees at a variety of trade shows hosted at EC&O venues, which receive more than 2 million visitors annually, and other exhibition facilities. The analysis aims “to help organisers create objectives for trade events, which in turn will lead to quantifiable results in terms of improved visitor quality, visitor attendance and propensity to revisit”.

Respondents were asked to comment on overall show content (or ‘editorial’): seminars, masterclasses, networking sessions and other experiential elements, with only 44% confirming that they were fully aware of the show’s ‘feature’ offering prior to their visit. Of particular note to event organisers is the direct correlation between visitors’ awareness of features, their decision to revisit and their overall satisfaction rating for the show, that the study reveals.

Planning ahead
The EC&O survey also identified the importance of attendee pre-planning, with 51% scheduling their visit to ensure maximum interaction and engagement with exhibitors. The results indicate that, by pre-planning their activities, visitors are able to utilise the show to its full potential, thereby deriving maximum benefit and value from the experience and increasing levels of satisfaction with the event and intention to revisit.

The report stated that “it is clear that the elements of newness, freshness of editorial content and facilitation of pre-planning are inter-related and fundamental to the overall visitor experience. A trade show must stay invigorated and relevant to today’s changing marketplace, with heavily communicated newness driving well-marketed ‘feature’ content that, in turn, encourages visitor pre-planning, leading to greater attendee satisfaction and thus assured longevity of the trade show ‘brand’.”

Commenting on the study, EC&O managing director Nigel Nathan, said: “The research that we have conducted highlights that trade shows, just like any brand, must evolve with the constantly changing market conditions and visitor needs. Trade exhibition brand allegiance can only be achieved by responding to the changes and communicating your response to your audience.”

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