This Just In

New Freeman Trends Report Details Exhibitors’ Needs and Expectations of Events

This is the cover of the Freeman 2024 Exhibitor Trends Report

CHICAGO — Freeman released its 2024 Exhibitor Trends Report, outlining the current needs of exhibitors and gaps in expectations, and detailing actions to take to meet those needs while aligning exhibitor and attendee objectives.

The major theme in the report is that event organizers need to design events to help meet the objectives of both exhibitors and attendees to be the most successful.

“The most important takeaway is the need to deeply understand the exhibitors’ objectives, and that’s not revolutionary. The report’s findings are a reminder of how fundamental it is to understand your customer, and your customer’s customer,” said Ken Holsinger, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Freeman.

To gain that understanding and align the needs and wants of exhibitors and attendees, event organizers should consider “optimizing the opt-in.” This can be done by providing attendee lists before the event, creating more networking opportunities between exhibitors and attendees, helping match exhibitors with attendees using technology and making information sharing seamless.

According to the previous Freeman report on attendee behaviors, attendees said they will opt in to sharing their information with exhibitors if their upfront event objectives are to connect with each other. This allows them to make plans before the event for their schedules.

“They want to plan and optimize the opportunities that can be overwhelming to navigate with packed schedules that can be chaotic to manage at events,” Holsinger said. “We lean on chance and serendipity as our go-to, events create all this wonderful serendipity. Part of this report’s overall message is that it is not by accident but by design. You can certainly create better environments for serendipity, you can design for it.”

Digging Into the Data

When asked what areas contribute most to their reasoning for exhibiting, exhibitors said lead generation is the most influential outcome (35%), followed by brand impact (25%), sales (24%) and lead nurture (17%).

Optimistically, this year 39% of exhibitors say they expect their exhibiting budgets to increase in the next 12 months (compared to 31% in 2023), and 36% expect the budget to stay the same (compared to 48% in 2023).

Holsinger notes that these budget increases are likely due to inflationary pressures and that due to costs the dollar might not stretch as far. Even with cost concerns, if the event predictably delivers quality leads exhibitors will invest at the event, as lead quality remains the No. 1 measure of success.

Related. Freeman Trends Report Shows Attendee Motivations and Expectations for 2024

The report found that exhibitors desire different kinds of assistance and support from event organizers. According to the report, 64% of all exhibitors want exhibit packages that are inclusive of all costs, and that number increases to 69% when looking at only small exhibitors.

“There is real nuance here when we talk about inclusive packages. To an inline booth that is really turnkey, like a 10 by 10 with a monitor, a couch and space to demonstrate something, the all-inclusive package is easier to determine,” Holsinger said. “For a larger exhibitor, that all-inclusive is more of an integrated marketing approach that requires looking at brand objectives, thought leadership, and the kind of networking and nurturing wanted with the customer. It’s not just the booth.”

Gaps to Pay Attention To:

Importance of Organizer Assistance

  • 63% of exhibitors feel that support from the event organizer is extremely or very important, yet only 39% of exhibitors reported that the support was extremely or very effective.


Reasons for Exhibiting

  • 95% of exhibitors say meeting/networking with customers/prospects is extremely or very important, and 59% say they are extremely or very satisfied with it.
  • 88% of exhibitors say lead acquisition is extremely or very important, but only 49% are extremely or very satisfied.
  • 87% of exhibitors say brand/product awareness is extremely or very important, and 59% say they are extremely or very satisfied with it.


Something to note and keep an eye out for is that more exhibitors are considering independent events to get more value. According to the report, large and medium exhibitors are more likely to be planning or executing independent events than small exhibitors are. Holsinger notes that the growing appeal of these events is due to the costs and outcomes being predictable, and there is more collaborative data. Some exhibitors may be willing to spend more money on an independent event for these reasons than they would at a trade show.

The XLNC Framework

Using the XLNC framework developed by Freeman, which stands for experience, learning, networking and commerce, the Trends Report found that exhibitors value commerce most (33%), then networking (32%), experience (21%) and learning (14%).

The Most Important Elements


  • Face-to-face interactions and hands-on experiences for attendees
  • Connecting with attendees and setting up meetings in advance
  • Technology that makes it easier to connect with attendees



  • Scheduling short, 1:1 or small group discussions with attendees
  • Offering hands-on interaction or participatory learning activations
  • Providing demos in a classroom, activation or at a booth



  • Topic-specific meet-up opportunities
  • After-hours events
  • Areas where informal networking can occur and digital tools to enhance connecting with attendees



  • Providing product samples or service demos
  • Preset meetings with qualified attendees
  • Offering hands-on demos, sessions at booths/activation


Download the full Freeman Exhibitor Trends Report here.

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