December 2016

Trends in Attracting Exhibitors – An Organizer’s Guide, Part 2

–Kathleen Wilson, Clearpoint Exhibit Intelligence

In the first installment of this two-part article in the June/July HCEA News, we acknowledged the competitive pressures on attracting, maintaining, and growing a convention’s exhibitor and sponsor base. We cited pressure on event budgets and increasing redistribution of dollars to other marketing channels as undeniable. At the same time, we suggested that there are many opportunities for organizers to increase exhibitor support. We explored three specific tactics: creating transparency in attendee demographics, giving greater attention to expo hall traffic drivers, and improving communication of changes in organizer marketing efforts. In this second part of the article, we’ll look at three additional tactics organizers may consider: enabling analysis of scientific session topic relevance, innovating in post-event reporting, and increasing acknowledgment and implementation of exhibitor feedback.

Analysis of Scientific Sessions

An exhibitor that prioritizes its convention budget often looks to key metrics to determine how much to allocate to a given meeting. As noted in our previous article, arguably the most important metric is composition of the professional attendee audience. At the same time, many exhibitors appropriately view relevance of the scientific sessions to their product or therapy areas as also highly important, as well presence of specific speakers. However, conference programs focus on the attendee audience, and exhibitors face a challenge in researching session relevance despite the categorization of session tracks, or themes.

Let’s say an exhibitor serves the diabetes market. Further, let’s say the company’s therapies have particular relevance to cardiovascular implications. Such an interest may cut across tracks, so if the company attempts to size up share of sessions relevant to its business, it must do a manual tally. We have helped multiple exhibitors comb through scientific programs, generally .pdfs or flipbooks, to pick out key words, categorize topics, slice and dice sessions for relevance. Imagine how this could be simplified. If organizers provided an easy way to search the program via key words, tagging, or dynamic highlighting, these calculations could be much faster and more reliable.

Innovation in Post-Event Reporting

Many organizers we speak with are interested in improving post-show reporting to better serve the needs of their exhibitor base. Sharing ideas for innovation could prove useful in retaining the exhibitor base. Such ideas that we’ve encountered include:

·       Conducting and disclosing results of an independent audit of attendee numbers and composition;

·       Quantifying social media reach, such as number of individual companies using the congress hashtag;

·       Results of attendee surveys including open- and closed-ended questions about satisfaction with the expo hall.

The post-congress report is also a fitting tool to thank advisory boards and sponsors. What if, given the relevance of scientific session topics addressed above, the organizer also provided a profile of attendees by session? After all, the sessions attract the audience, which then attends the expo. Any additional information about the sessions can only assist the exhibitor in optimizing its presence at the event.

Acknowledgment, Implementation of Exhibitor Feedback

Many organizers do a great job of seeking feedback from their exhibitors. What we hear less often, though, is evidence of whether the feedback led to actual changes in the conference. Best practice is for organizers to be punctual in post-event surveys and then also and importantly to communicate to current and prospective exhibitors what is being changed based on feedback. The importance of the “we heard you” message can’t be overstated. Regular feedback and summarized changes are not just seen as a good idea by exhibitors, but such initiatives help build their trust and thereby, retention.

Thoughts? We’d love to hear them. Please contact us.