Originally published in Trade Show Executive, Jan 2014 Issue

Show organizers and exhibitors spend an extensive amount of time attracting attendees who have previously attended an event or are likely to do so, time and budget permitting. IAEE’s Future Trends Task Force identified a market that is at times overlooked and easily neglected since they do not represent a direct revenue stream for an event – or do they?

IAEE’s Future Trends Task Force chaired by Francis J. Friedman of Time and Place Strategies, Inc. released its white paper at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition held this past December in Houston, and among key findings “Non-attendees always represent potential show-community members, as well as potential revenue sources to show owners, producers and exhibitors. By definition, non-attendees are not-present at the live event, but this does not necessarily mean they are not interested in what is taking place at the exhibition itself.”

This perspective struck me as particularly important because we now need to determine how to use technology and social media to engage, influence and capture the non-attendee. For the exhibitions and events industry, which exists based on the core value of bringing buyers and sellers together face-to-face to do business, convincing non-attendees to adopt the value proposition for an event and carry its message forward is a strategy that is essential in any marketing plan.

The task force also found that “programs integrate technology and social media applications to emulate the “experience” and onsite engagement before, during and after the event” so these tactics could create a conduit to a new universe of influencers who could become champions for a new or existing exhibition. “Technology currently allows for hybrid events to create an opportunity to attract the virtual audience to a live presentation, which also subtly re-defines the “attendee.” This aspect of extending the value and concept of a show must be included in the ongoing look at technology, and the concepts of what constitutes a “modern” exhibition.”

Social media is quickly becoming, if it has not already, the “go-to” medium for engaging loyalists and an ever-increasing community of curious onlookers. Not only is it essential for the conversations to remain fresh and relevant, but it is essential for show organizers to watch vertical markets and competitors to understand key topics and how to use them in search engine optimization (SEO) to engage non-attendees and potentially convert this audience to live attendees.

The white paper pays special attention to SEO and the value it offers to exhibitions: “The exhibition industry movement to build 24/7 communities will require that show producers have high-level skill sets in SEO and keyword utilization in their plans. These skills are fundamental to utilizing social media to its full potential, as both an audience discovery tool and an audience conversion and satisfaction measurement tool. The successful use of SEO/keyword tools enables show producers to gather high quality information upon which to make decisions. These tools also make it possible for show producers to find non-attendee/non-engaged audiences which they can then use to test new show/ marketing approaches and gather high-quality feedback about how these approaches convert non-audiences to participants without a great deal of risk.”

IAEE created the Future Trends Task Force to identify and address major trends it felt will impact the exhibitions and events industry. This white paper presents the results of 13 future trends the task force anticipates will impact and shape our industry. Future Trends Impacting the Exhibitions and Events Industry examines the following points:

  • The broad range of generations co-existing in the workforce and their different communication styles
  • Collecting “Big Data” to hone in on the most relevant information
  • New technologies for data capture, recording and reporting
  • The impact of emerging technologies in the business environment
  • Social media marketing
  • Creating year-round communities for an exhibition or event
  • Experiential trade shows
  • Addressing and capitalizing on non-attendee engagement
  • Educating exhibitors in the ongoing value of face-to-face marketing
  • International trends impacting U.S. exhibitions
  • Variables affecting internet connectivity at exhibitions and events
  • Private events in the corporate marketing plan
  • The complexity of managing these elements in the future

For the complete white paper, visit www.iaee.com.

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President and CEO
IAEE

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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