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CEIR Attendee Acquisition Study Shows Effective Marketing Approaches for Generating Registration for Trade Shows

graph showing the most effective digital tactics for attendee acquisition

CHICAGO — The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) hosted a webinar on Jan. 31 called “Positioning Your Attendee Acquisition Approach for Success,” which focused on the approaches that have been successful at increasing attendance at B2B exhibitions. 

The digital transformation has disrupted the way organizers market to their target audience; with technology continuing to evolve, marketing approaches must do the same. 

The webinar provided topline, preliminary findings from CEIR’s latest research, documenting attendee acquisition approaches for recent B2B exhibitions. The results find that marketing approaches that are disciplined in hyper focusing on personalization, both in aligning marketing channel tactics and messaging to core target audiences, perform best in generating registrants.

According to the CEIR Attendee Acquisition Study’s preliminary findings, the event content and the messaging approach are the primary factors considered when defining a marketing approach for an event. In messaging for exhibitions, the words “community” and “face-to-face engagement” are effective because it lets people know what they will experience at the event. 

“When we’re getting ready to start planning for another year, another event, the first thing we look at is last year’s feedback,” Jennifer Yarber, Senior Marketing Director, Design Group at Emerald, said. “What are their changing needs, what problems do we need to fix and what content is top of mind for them? We use all of that to build our programming. If we’re not building content that’s top of mind, attendees will register for a competing event that’s thinking more thoughtfully about it.” 

In creating the best marketing approach, there were three key aspects identified by the CEIR study: hyper targeting/personalization, multichannel mix and collaboration. Digital tactics have been effective at generating registration, and 98% of respondents use one or more digital tactics. These include emails to the house list, social media content marketing, automated marketing, retargeting, discounts and personalized attendee marketing.  

“Personalization outperforms those that go for more generic approach, and 43% say they adopt a personalized attendee marketing effort. Email is the digital tactic people love to hate, but consistently it delivers. It’s found to be one of the most effective tactics in generating registration,” Nancy Drapeau, IPC, Vice President of Research at CEIR, said.  

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A multichannel approach does not just mean digital—traditional tactics including telemarketing, direct mail to the house list and trade magazine print advertising all were powerful ways to drive registration. 

“Don’t sleep on telemarketing, it’s been shockingly effective for us. Our scripts are short and conversational since we target segments that are already familiar with BDNY. We are not calling people that we have to spend 10 minutes educating them on what the brand is and what the event is,” Yarber said. 

Collaborations can also help boost attendee acquisition, and tactics such as exhibitor and partner invitation programs, relationships selling to key buyers and working with local organizations to maximize local attendees have all been found to be effective. 

“One of the collaborative efforts that we have is that we partner with a magazine in the healthcare space and at our event we have a joint hall of fame awards gala,” Gregg Lapin, CMP, Director, Event Experience at the American College of Healthcare Executives, said. “We advertise on their website, and one of the metrics that we’re finding this year is that the traffic is much higher than it has been in years past, almost double.” 

The metrics that track attendee perceptions of an event have been positive according to the study, but there’s still room for improvement. The top five areas organizers are looking to improve on are ensuring the content is the best it can be, maximizing return on channel marketing efforts, understanding better the audience’s digital media behaviors, extending engagement year-round and understanding better how to reach and resonate with young professionals. 

CEIR plans to begin publishing reports from the Attendee Acquisition Study later in February.

Reach Nancy Drapeau at; Gregg Lapin at; Jennifer Yarber at 

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