How the Attractions Expo Adapted to Attendees' Needs
By creating rooms for prayer and nursing mothers, the Attractions Expo demonstrates how a trade show can listen and respond to its audience.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is putting attendee feedback into action at its Attractions Expo, which fills nearly 530,000 square feet inside and outside the Orange County Convention Center through Friday. Organizers have created several new components this year and expanded others, in part due to survey results from last year.
“To keep people coming back you have to listen to them. You have to make the whole experience satisfying for them,” said Stacey Mills, the association’s director of conference and trade show operations. "The days of saying 'build it and they will come' are over; it’s a competitive market."
The show is the largest in the world for the $24 billion attractions industry, attracting 27,000 attendees from more than 100 countries. Based on requests from international guests, the association designated a room in the convention center for prayer and meditation this year. The room is inclusive and nondenominational, with a few rows of chairs and a table at the front. Organizers have publicized the room on the show Web site and in printed materials and are asking guests to sign in to track usage.
Another new space is a room for nursing mothers. “We get a lot of people that bring their entire families, from babies all the way up,” Mills said. "As a woman myself I thought that was something that was missing. We needed to offer that service so if they were in a situation where they were nursing or needed to go pump, that we would have that area designated for them so they wouldn’t need to use the restroom or go back to their hotel." Black drapes create four semiprivate cubicles in the room, each equipped with a chair, table, and electrical outlet. In the common area, a small refrigerator is available for storage.
This is the largest expo in 10 years with 80 educational sessions and nearly 1,100 exhibitors. Ten percent of those are first-time exhibitors, and based on survey results, organizers created a reception for them on Monday afternoon, the first day of the expo, in a lounge on the show floor. “We wanted them to meet some of the key staff as well as members of our manufacturers and suppliers committee, which is made up of other exhibitors who are leaders in our community, so these first-time exhibitors can ask questions, get advice, and feel welcomed,” Mills said.
To streamline check-in, organizers offer satellite registration areas in the Hilton Orlando and Hyatt Regency Orlando, the two main convention hotels, as well as in a third area near the outdoor exhibit space. Positive response from attendees last year prompted them to keep those locations open an extra day. Another change based on the survey results: mailing exhibitors their move-in wristbands to save time.
To encourage more attendees to complete post-event surveys, the association will offer incentives such as a drawing for a gift certificate or registration for next year’s expo.