What Trade Show Attendees Really Want

What-Attendees-WantHow many times have you walked the trade show floor and wished you could get inside the minds of exhibit attendees to find out what they were thinking? I wonder about it all of the time. Well, thanks to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), we don’t have to wonder any longer. They released a study titled Exhibition Floor Interaction: What Attendees Want, which provides valuable insights into what trade show exhibitors can do to create a more successful trade show experience. Here are five key takeaways and what they mean for you.

1. Product interaction is key.

The study revealed that the opportunities to see product demonstrations and to have hands-on interaction with the products are two of the main reasons attendees go to trade shows. They want the type of experience that can’t be replicated by viewing your website or reading a brochure. If you have products that can’t be physically showcased at the trade show; in an exhibit booth, simulators or other creative interactive methods are also quite effective. Sight, sound, touch; the more senses you can appeal to the better.

2. Literature is still valuable.  

As it is, there is not enough time during the trade show to see and do everything, so attendees prefer to use their time at the event interacting and viewing live demonstrations. But, some attendees will still want material that they can read at their leisure. This doesn’t mean you have to break your shipping budget with costly brochures. In fact, I see expensive brochures all over the place during dismantle and in the housekeeping trash bins at hotels when people realize their luggage is overweight. Instead, create a way for exhibit attendees to electronically sign up for your newsletter or leave their contact information at your booth and have a hard copy mailed to them. Your guests want information; they just don’t have time to soak it up at the event.

3. Videos aren’t as popular as you may think.

The study showed that less than 16 percent of respondents said they “like to watch videos.” That number drops to 8% when it comes to executives. Attendees would much rather view videos at home or in their office, rather than on the trade show floor. That doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate videos, but keep them short and sweet. Think of them as “eye-candy” to attract attention, rather than for in-depth information delivery. Don’t forget to make your videos available on your website or link to them from your social media channels so attendees can easily access them at a later time.

4. Familiar faces are comforting.

The report shows that more than 50% of respondents said, “I like to walk through and observe without speaking to the vendors, unless I approach them.” About 48% said, “I like to talk to/share with vendors I already know” and slightly less at about 45% said, “I like to meet and talk to vendors I do not know.” You can interpret this data a lot of ways, but basically you’ll up your chances of attendees wanting to talk with you if they’re already familiar with you or your company. To improve your odds, pre-promotion is a must. Read 4 Ways to Target Quality Crowds for helpful tips on this.

5. Knowledgeable staff is expected. 

When attendees do take the time to talk to exhibit booth staff, they want staff who are knowledgeable about the company’s products and services and who will take the time to answer their questions. Your staff should be able to provide more insights than guests can read just by viewing your exhibit booth or picking up a brochure. Your exhibit staff should have extensive product knowledge, excellent listening skills and be able to answers questions or point prospects in the right direction. And remember that instead of spouting features and benefits, your staff should tell the attendees how the products would solve their problems or meet their needs. Read my blog post on how to Turn Technical Booth Staff into Sales Superstars for more on this.

While it’s hard to always predict exactly what trade show attendees are thinking, I hope these insights provide some valuable information to steer you in the right direction, especially for upcoming events such as the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, May 4-7. And if you haven’t already, read my blog post The ABC’s of Attendees’ Moods for even more helpful tips. If you have additional questions, please call us today at 800-217-9479.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.