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Make Your Exhibitors Feel More Visible

By / Jun 6, 2019 (Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A new white paper reveals that most exhibitors feel invisible and think that show organizers aren’t doing enough to help them. A look at issues exhibitors currently face and ideas for fixing them.

Do you think your exhibitors are telling you what they need or expect from you? The truth is they’re probably not.

That’s according to a new white paper released this week by The Expo Group, which reveals that exhibitors often don’t feel seen. “The Invisible Exhibitor: What They’re Still Not Telling You” also reports that 75 percent of exhibitors think that show organizers could be doing more to help them.

Back in April, I shared some ideas for what associations can do to make exhibitors more of a priority and prepare them for upcoming conferences. While that’s a good place to start for many organizations, this white paper dives into four current issues that exhibitors face and offers some solutions to show organizers. Here’s a closer look at each.

Staggering Velocity

“The shifting demands of the marketplace compel exhibitors to perform the exhibit hall equivalent of making more cars in a short amount of time,” the report says. “It has required them to create interactive experiences in their tradeshow floor booths and integrate digital tools into their presentations.”

While exhibitors understand that this market transformation is not the fault of show organizers, they do think organizers can help ease their stress.

I already know what your next question is: How? Well, according to industry journalist and event consultant Michael Hart, who conducted the study, it could be as simple as asking them what they need. A few questions to consider:

  • In this changing marketplace, what do I need to do differently to help you be successful?
  • What kind of data do you want from me, and how can I get it to you?
  • What are the technologies that help you?
  • What can I do to help you connect with your customers?

In other words, just as you often ask or survey members about their pain points or how you can help them achieve their goals, do the same for exhibitors.

New Digital Citizens

“Attendees are now ‘digital citizens’ in every facet of their lives and expect nothing less when they attend a tradeshow,” the report says. Unfortunately, the research revealed that more exhibitors believe organizers could do a better job of helping them employ digital tools to satisfy attendee needs and accomplish event goals.

To help with this, the white paper suggests that organizers need to embrace better digital engagement tools. And it doesn’t need to be the newest technology like virtual reality or artificial intelligence—although that would be nice down the line. Exhibitors would be happy with an event app that has an appointment-setting feature and offers recommendations to attendees about which exhibitors would be most helpful to them.

Business Incubation

The exhibit hall is no longer just a place where “buyers and sellers meet,” according to the white paper. Instead, people see it as a place to go when they’re looking for partners “for more complex reasons” than buying and selling products. Both attendees and exhibitors want to meet people who can help them in the future.

With that goal in mind, the paper suggests that organizers turn their show into a business incubation center where companies can connect with potential partners.

“Rethink how smaller exhibiting companies can participate,” the report says, and also consider how to help larger, established organizations connect with “those standing across the aisles, not just those walking down the aisles.”

Hungry for Innovation

Attendees are no longer looking for a stroll around the exhibit hall. Because of this, exhibitors expect show organizers to adopt innovations and help them deepen their engagement with attendees.

“Show organizers must constantly be testing new ideas to create the crave for attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors,” the paper says. “It is imperative to act on innovative ideas at each iteration of an event to avoid the conventional layout and flat attendance.”

The Expo Group offered a few ideas for making this happen. Among them: demonstration theaters, attendee engagement activities, and organizing a show floor into content-related pavilions.

What does your association do to make sure exhibitors feel visible? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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