Handling no-shows at exhibitions and trade shows

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Christophe Asselin, Head of Ad:tech London, DMG EventsOur attrition figures have been steady over several years at 40-43 per cent. It’s a narrow window but one we now expect. Timing is certainly an issue and someone who registered three or six months prior to the show is a different prospect to a person registering the day before. For organisers, staying top of mind is the key thing here. Just because you have a certain percentage of people registered in the database, that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of them. People have lots more excuses not to turn up to shows these days. The level of no-shows will come down to how you engage with those people and raise your value proposition against what else they could be doing. You want your show to be top of their agenda, instead of a nice filler in their day. One way we have been achieving this is by better personalising the experience and customising the journey. You can’t stay top of mind by marketing broadly to all and sundry – you have to respond to that person’s agenda. The three key things you also have to deliver at any event and then communicate are learning/education, networking and benchmarking. Technology and smartphone applications are brilliant tools to achieving this personalisation. Our show app allows visitors to see which colleagues are attending via their LinkedIn profile. This increases the efficiency of how they interact at our event and raises the importance of attending. Technology has also been able to improve the matching process during registration, and the information we capture has gained much more value. We are a digital marketing show, and in our space, if you ask people for information, you want to make sure they know its value in return. Ultimately, if the content of your show is critical for their business, you can get people there. How you deal with no-shows comes down to being smarter and sensing what people want. If you can grasp why they attend every year and match your show as closely as possible to those expectations,  you will have a fully engaged audience and people will look forward to it. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Will Broadfoot, Marketing director, BrintexThere are many correlations that the statistically-minded marketer can observe between a pre-registered visitor’s likelihood to attend and their demographic make-up, but one factor common to all trade events is time. Someone registering 12 weeks out will probably have a 40 per cent chance of visiting, compared to someone registering two weeks out, who is 70 per cent likely to attend. This variance can be used to gain advantage. The trend today is for visitors to register later, and as much as half of all pre-registrations form in the final two weeks. As Sir Alex Ferguson might say, ‘it’s squeaky-bum time’ for marketing, but we can also take comfort in the knowledge that this particular group are most likely to show on the day. On average, if 52 per cent of our pre-registered visitors attend, we’re not doing too badly, and 58 per cent or more would be considered excellent. That said, different market sectors and event models can vary enormously, so it’s important to compare like for like. There’s no doubt conversion has never been more crucial. We use techniques to enable visitors to register so quickly the entire process may take fewer than 20 seconds. Great for pre-registration figures, but barely enough time to embed core brand values. An interesting trick is to ask registering visitors how likely they are to attend, then cross reference this with the number of weeks out they are, and segment the results. You’re left with a map of the key battleground for conversion. Focus marketing spend on marginal areas that need it most, offer post quality badge packs and incentives to targeted demographic groups, get on the phone to make sure visitors have all they need pre-show and encourage them to bring a colleague. If you’re lucky enough to have a show model where pre-arranged meetings are commonplace, then there’s every chance you’re hitting high conversion levels. For most, it comes down to effective campaign planning. Naturally, you need a comprehensive marketing schedule to build the pre-registrations in the first place, but without a detailed and measurable conversion plan backing it up, the risks are pronounced. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Squire, Head of marketing, Fresh montgomeryNo-shows will always play a part in audience engagement, especially as registration online becomes quicker and easier for the prospective visitor.  It’s a simple fact of life that commitment varies over time. So unless it’s guaranteed upfront, no-shows will always exist. Not all pre-registered visitors are going to attend then, but the pathway to reducing their impact hinges on two choices: Increasing pre-reg conversion or encouraging more registrations. In the first case, for most events at Fresh Montgomery the percentage of no-shows barely varies year-on-year. At an event like Hotelympia for instance, it will be under 40 per cent. This is regardless of our trusted conversion procedure – compelling content presented in a printed preview brochure, and in a format that stands out and brings the event to life. E-badges work brilliantly, but most of our markets still respond best to hard copy in the post. It’s the same with content or special initiatives we put on, like VIP programmes featuring telemarketing campaigns or incentives to visit. Industry celebrities like Raymond Blanc or The Hotel Inspector draw crowds, but they attract as many people registering on a whim who lack the will to turn up. The infrequent blips in no-show trends that do happen are down to forces we can’t control, usually transport or weather issues. While these situations are difficult to manage, we take proactive steps asking pre-registered visitors what days they might attend, so we can send targeted messages about alternative transport routes should the need arise. Without exception, it’s the second option of attracting more pre-reg that’s been most successful for Fresh Montgomery exhibitions, and the main reason for our audience upturns of the last 18 months. The most important factor has to be brand strength and achieving an emotional attachment to the event as well as its perceived benefits. While many ways of reducing no-shows are seemingly linked to mechanical elements, the reality is far deeper. If visitors feel the show is vital, then they will attend no matter what. This was first published in the August edition of Exhibition News. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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