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Events State of the Nation, with Exhibition News

At GES, we pride ourselves on keeping up-to-date with the exhibitions industry and our customers’ challenges.

Over the past few months, we’ve partnered with leading publication Exhibition News to undertake a survey of exhibition organisers. Our aim: to check the industry’s pulse when it comes to some key issues and trends.

And the results were very interesting...

When asked whether exhibitions are holding their own against other marketing channels, 72% of organisers surveyed believe they are, however, they cited social media and online advertising as those being the biggest threat to trade shows (30% and 26% respectively). In fact, so strong is the belief in the growth of the industry, a whopping 70% of respondents are planning to launch an event in the next 12 months!

Creating the best visitor and exhibitor experience has been at the top of exhibition organisers’ agendas for a while - with 64% of respondents believing that exhibitions have to be ‘experiential’ to succeed.

Christine Martin, our executive director of marketing and customer experience, was asked by Exhibition News to give her thoughts on the results of the survey:

Originally created for Exhibition News, July 2019

Beats, beer and bants? No thanks!

Yes, that is a genuine copy line. Not mine you understand, but I use it to illustrate my dislike of the word ‘festivalisation’ and the idea it fosters that we need to adopt teen-speak to make our events attractive to a younger, hipster demographic. 

However, I am an ardent believer in our collective need to reimagine the buyer/seller dynamic and am encouraged as the data suggests that many of the respondents share that view.

At GES, we have seen a cultural shift: clients are talking to us more than ever about the visitor experience and engaging us early in the event lifecycle to talk about audience acquisition, customer engagement, brand consistency throughout the visitor journey, increasing dwell times and driving attendee NPS scores. 

Marketers are attracted to platforms (physical and digital) with strong communities and loyal followers. High performing exhibition brands are effectively gatekeepers to that community and will find a ready market of exhibitors who want to gain access to the ‘secret garden’. 

But beware: loyalty is hard won and quickly lost. New, younger buyers are the tribe we need to recruit and whilst the evidence suggests they embrace ‘face-to-face’ experiences as complementary to digital (and not an alternative), they are a demanding and fickle bunch – as any parent will tell you.

Experience, education and novelty are all key drivers for this group and successful event brands will need to curate, innovate and personalise if they are to secure longterm fealty. Work/life balance also means the blending of those two, once separate, worlds and they fully expect to be entertained as well as informed, regardless of whether they are in a B2B or B2C environment.

You say festivalisation, I say experiential - the terminology is a matter of taste. What is unequivocal is the direction of travel as the new generation of budget holders dictate the terms of engagement. It’s a buyers’ market – arguably always was – and the winners will be organisers that create spaces, places and communities they crave to be part of.

Read the full results here.