An event’s website is the first point of contact for most prospective attendees of trade shows and exhibitions, and their experience on the site can “make or break [their] perception of the event.” That’s one of the findings of the Focus Report on Organizer Pre-event Communications and Registration Offerings, the first report in the new Digital Toolkit offered by CEIR, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. This first report, released earlier this month, is based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2015 that included responses from 421 people who attend business-to-business exhibitions, along with input from show managers and brand marketers. Future reports in the toolkit will focus on mobile apps, exhibit booth preferences, post-event communications, and more.
Here’s a look at some of the key findings regarding how technology is integrated into event marketing, attendee planning tools, registration, and access to badges and materials.
Planners should use a variety of digital channels to help prospective attendees decide whether to attend an event, but at the top of the list is the event’s website, identified by 70 percent of respondents as an important resource.
Organizers should encourage exhibitors to share information about their participation in the event on their website and in emails, because attendees also value both of those sources of information.
Marketing through social media is useful for specific audiences, specifically women, frequent attendees, and younger attendees.
Text messaging is favored by higher-powered attendees, such as those who make decisions about attendance and those who go most often. Half or more of these attendees rely on text messages from organizers or exhibitors.
An attendee’s experience using the event website can “make or break” their perception of the event.
Of the 18 website tools evaluated in the survey, nine are ranked as important by at least two-thirds of attendees. These include the ability to review and register for conference sessions and special events, access to an interactive floor map, a searchable exhibitor directory, and the ability to make hotel reservations.
Additional website tools that are not as commonly offered but are preferred by a majority of attendees include the ability to download speaker presentations, the ability to show attendees products based on preferences in their profiles, and promotions or special prices for attendees.
Both frequent attendees and those who identify as millennials place importance on a searchable attendee directory and on the ability to download industry information.
Seventy-five percent of attendees say they would be more likely to use pre-event planning tools if doing so would earn them points toward perks at the event, such as preferred seating at general sessions or free coffee.
Three-quarters of respondents indicate they use the event website to register, while about 45 percent say they register in response to an email.
Only 5 percent of organizers allow attendees to register by responding to a text message, but 16 percent of attendees indicate they prefer this option. As the report states, text messaging “is a communication method to pay attention to as the busiest and most influential attendees will respond (roughly three out of 10 of those who attend the most events), as well as those who are final decision makers for purchases.”
The most common digital devices used to register are desktop computers and laptop computers. Only 15 percent use mobile devices, but they are favored by 20 percent of younger attendees.
A majority of returning attendees, 55 percent, want their registration form to pre-populate with information from the last time they attended.
Attendees prefer self-service options to pick up their badge and registration materials. As the report states, people are used to self-service options in other aspects of their lives, such as at airports, grocery stores, and gas stations, so “there is a preference and perhaps an expectation of being able to do things on one’s own for badge pickup.”
Self-service options are more popular with the most frequent attendees, those who are final decision makers, and younger attendees.
Two methods that are preferred by a majority of attendees but are not offered by most organizers are the ability to receive badges via email and the ability to print them in advance from the event website.