In the first of a new series of blogs for Exhibition News, the NEC's Marketing Director Martin Clarke, asks...in a B2B environment in particular, how do you get an audience to listen to you when they think they’ve heard it all before?
In a B2B environment in particular, how do you get an audience to listen to you when they think they’ve heard it all before?
Ironically, engagement tends to come most often from those who already do a good job; they’re typically the ones who see the value in preparing and make the most of an event opportunity.
The ones who quite frankly do the opposite (and are above attending any sort of educational or networking event), are really the ones who should take note.
Apathy…call it indifference, lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm or simply lack of concern, is a serious issue when we work in an events industry that does not stand still. If we don’t move with the times, we risk not moving at all.
Busy times bring different priorities, so what makes your event the one they have to attend?
Following past experience, exhibitors could be forgiven for making assumptions on attendance at an event such as an Exhibitor Masterclass. After all, their trade is their business, they know it inside out…don’t they? Effective exhibiting, however, is a skill that many still need to learn.
The crucial point to note is that exhibiting is a significant investment, and the recent inaugural Exhibitor Masterclass at the NEC was about getting return from that investment. As we continually strive for excellence in a competitive marketplace, the Masterclass was a collaboration to help take our industry forward and our events grow.
Successful exhibitions benefit everyone involved from organisers to suppliers, venues to exhibitors to customers, so anything that can be done to improve the return on investment is the joint responsibility of all of those involved.
‘Heard it all before’, also means it’s really difficult to make assumptions on how many of those who have signed up are actually engaged and will turn up to an event. It’s easy for an individual to tick a box to say they’ll attend, and many do, but as the event fast approaches, it’s common for ‘business as usual’ to take over and many potential attendees eventually rule out their attendance on that basis. For some, attending a Masterclass-style event means a day away from making money.
So, when it comes down to it, how do we ensure our events remain a business priority for exhibitors?
With around 30-50% being the norm for retention at a free-to-attend event, collaborating with an Industry/Trade Association is an excellent way to give an event credibility and also allows for better conversion rates. Joint marketing will also have a positive impact on attendance, but the crucial question is, by how much? What is the key to a high conversion rate versus a low turnout?
It’s all about relevant content and how you position your event. Creating an inspiring event plan will go some way towards ensuring that delegates schedule your event in their diary in the first place.
Organisers also need to have some strategic and thought-provoking topics which get people thinking and convince them why one event is a must-attend versus another. It’s also worth giving them a roadmap with top tips and how they might best use the information they’ll be given.
Events are about reaching out to customers and recognising the need to help them maximise their offer; great content is essential if our events are to thrive and survive, and initial engagement with those who think they know it all is half the battle.
So, exhibitors may think they’ve heard it all before, but actually, they haven’t…they need to take a chance on the content and they might learn new ways to maximise their return on their investment. They know their business best, but organisers can help them get their message across.
Martin Clarke, NEC Marketing Director