By Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP
CEIR Managing Director
The American Society of Association Executives Foundation, in conjunction with Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research recently released a research paper, Current and Emerging Trends of Tradeshows, An Assessment of Stakeholders’ Preferences. The paper examines the core reasons for both attendees and exhibitors participating in trade shows and what their motivations are in attending.
Not surprisingly, the findings of this research project align with a CEIR omnibus research project with Dr. Jeff Tanner, a professor of marketing, What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions. The ASAE research was focused on shows attended by association organizers, while CEIR’s research included both association and independent organizers. ASAE’s study shows that attendees are motivated by learning and exhibitors are motivated by the potential of doing business. Yes, we already know this is a fact.
The ASAE study did reveal a few nuggets including that location is important. A recently released study by CEIR, Stopping Attendee Loss concurs with this finding on the attendee side. Both audiences in the ASAE study assigned high value to an event being held in a large metro area or a midsize city within the U.S. An area for opportunity is looking at international destinations. Some might say that their association’s mission is focused on the U.S. and their members are not interested in events outside the U.S. What about members outside the U.S. – either current or prospective? It is a missed opportunity.
This was also reinforced at last week’s Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum during a session examining opportunities for attracting attendees from Mexico to shows in the U.S., and cloning an event in Mexico. Using an audience response system, the overwhelming majority of executive level attendees (primarily associations in the DC area) responded that their association is not looking outside of the U.S. Both the ASAE study and CEIR’s studies note that the preferences and motivations of both attendees and exhibitors are changing. This is essentially a disruption in how trade shows have traditionally functioned. We must be adaptable to avoid irrelevance.