Trade Show Advice from Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR)

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) is a trade show resource offering advice to help exhibition management and others create effective marketing and exhibition strategies. Some of these trade show insights might be right for you.

When attendees take the time, expense and energy to spend a few days on a show floor, they want to make it worth their while. So, the exhibitor should engage attendees they way they want to be engaged.

The top two answers when attendees were asked how they wanted to interact on a show floor were, 1: through product demos (58.9 percent), or 2: by having hands-on interaction with the products (58 percent).

The next way they want to interact is to have the ability to take away information to digest later (57.8 percent). In-booth brochures would be the old dogma, but more and more exhibitors are getting tech-savvy (and environmentally friendly) with their takeaways, such as USB drives, downloadable brochures, QR codes and apps.

It turns out that attendees do want to interact directly with the exhibit staff — but on their own terms. More than half of the respondents said they preferred to “walk through and observe without speaking to the vendors, unless I approach them,” while nearly half said they wanted to talk to vendors they didn’t already know, and 45.8 percent said they wanted to talk with new vendors.

“Interaction trumps theater-style presentations today, as attendees want hands-on experience with product,” says CEIR President and CEO Brian Casey, CEM. “When they have a question or want to learn more, they expect to engage with knowledgeable exhibitor staff.”


As an exhibitor or a trade show organizer, consider this:

Exhibition Organizers

• To satisfy attendees’ appetites for product interaction opportunities, consider offering product focus areas, hubs or other processes where attendees can interact with products in the hottest categories.

• To assist exhibitors in attracting target attendees to their booths, offer a robust exhibitor-marketing program that enables exhibitors to extend personalized invitations to their target prospects. Enable exhibitors to send a set number of complimentary passes.

• To help exhibitors maximize their success, offer an event-sponsored exhibitor training program that provides an overview on effective pre-show marketing, best-practice approaches in product demonstrations and product interaction techniques, and booth staff training on engaging effectively with attendees.



• Attendees come to an exhibition for the real-time, physical experience offered at an exhibition. It is essential to have core products in a booth, with chances to experience a demonstration or chance to interact with them.

• Where a product cannot be showcased physically in a booth, “gamification” (adding fun or game-like elements to encourage participation) or a simulation may provide ways to engage attendees while educating them on key features and benefits. The key is that interaction beats theater-style presentation.

• Effective, product-information sharing practices are essential to ensure that attendees have the information to refer to and review more thoroughly at a later time.

• To maximize exhibiting success, exhibit booth staff must have the right skills. Published CEIR research indicates that booth staff should have deep product knowledge, sharp listening skills, and an ability to deftly answer attendee questions “on the spot,” providing information that goes beyond what is available online.


More From CEIR…

Which attendees are at an exhibition to shop? Which are there to learn? The answers to these and other questions can aid exhibition organizers in creating the most value for their target audience. They can be found in another CEIR report, Attendee Preferences by Job Title, “This report helps… organizers make sure their approach is in alignment with the preferences of their target attendees…” says CEIR President & CEO Brian Casey, CEM. “Organizers can use this data to strategically plan the event content and to segment their marketing efforts accordingly.”

Attendee Preferences by Job Title breaks down the shared and unique preferences of attendees based on four job-title levels: executive, upper, middle, and lower management. Findings relate to the primary reasons for attending; whether top-ranked, important objectives for attending are being met; the top factors considered when deciding to attend a new exhibition; and information-resource preferences when evaluating prospective exhibitions to attend.

IAEE members can access the CEIR library and reports at no cost.

Get the Report.

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