New research shows that women and men value different things when they attend exhibitions and conferences. Associations can benefit from those differences if they’re thoughtful about it.
Do men and women have different goals when they attend conferences and exhibitions? A new survey from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research says yes.
In “Gender Differences and Similarities,” the sixth report in its Attendee ROI Playbook series, CEIR looks at how the value proposition for attending b-to-b exhibitions varies by gender. While women and men both place a high value on shopping and learning, men place more importance on building relationships with suppliers (70 percent), prospecting for new ones (60 percent), and discovering new technology (87 percent). Women assign more value to learning objectives, such as keeping up with industry trends (92 percent), personal development (83 percent), and idea generation (81 percent).
Why do women prioritize learning? According to researchers, it is likely a function of women of all ages either joining or reentering the workforce.
“Career stages are apt to vary for women over the course of their lives,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, in a press release. “For younger women, learning is important to help advance their fledgling careers. For some women reentering the workforce after their children reach a certain age, it is a setting to jump start careers.”
The research also reveals that the importance of the experiential aspect of an exhibition varies by gender. Almost 90 percent of women said an important objective for attending was the experience, compared to 69 percent of men. An even larger gap was evident in the category of finding inspiration, motivation, or the ability to recharge: 83 percent of women said this was an objective versus 60 percent of men.
What Does It Mean for Associations?
While the research looked specifically at B-to-B exhibitions, the findings have a takeaway or two for associations.
One is that you should keep in mind that career stage may determine what your attendees want, particularly your female attendees. If you have a lot of attendees who have recently reentered the workforce, it may make sense to offer sessions that give them face time with leaders in the industry. For example, the National Black MBA Association hosted 75-minute Meet the Expert workshops at its annual conference where prominent industry leaders discussed strategies attendees could use to propel themselves to the next career stage.
Another takeaway: Consider pursuing different marketing tactics depending on who you’re encouraging to attend. For example, play up the learning aspect of your event if you know that’s a deciding factor in getting people to register. Similarly, if you know that an attendee segment is mainly looking to network or to get to know industry leaders, consider an email that touts the thought leaders who have already registered and who they’ll get to be in the room with.
While the research shows that differences exist between men and women, it also serves as a good reminder that association conferences need to strike a balance to ensure that they deliver on what all attendees are looking for.