Like most of you, I pay close attention to what is going on in the event space. I find myself particularly interested in trends and the overall outlook for our industry. Not surprisingly, some events are up, others are down and many find themselves relatively flat. However, being internal optimists, we always look for the silver lining—exhibit space was off, but attendance was up. We had more exhibitors, but the average booth size was down. We are the masters of the spin for our customers, but what is really in store for trade shows?

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research recently released research on “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction.” Even during the “Great Recession,” and now in the midst of an increasingly digital world, in person events remain an important tool for many marketers. Your customer’s still have a desire to show their products and services to a highly concentrated group of targeted influencers. 

This is the good news, but there are still many risks to our overall business. Budgets are decreasing and every dollar is being scrutinized. Simply put, you cannot afford to rest on the historic influence the event industry has had as a marketing tool. We need to challenge the norm and look to adjust our model for the future. Savvy marketers want a simple, measurable and hassle free experience. So what does that mean?

Simple: Everything from the contract process to payments to registration needs to be easier.  Consider an alumni program that will take basic information (address, phone, contact, product category, directory listings, etc.) and carry it over year to year.  Give them the opportunity to update that information, but why should you ask your returning customers to recreate the wheel with every event?

Measurable: We all deal with question on ROI. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all approach, but if your staff understands a marketers objectives in advance of the event, you can work to formulate and define what is or is not a realistic outcome. How will you ultimately be graded?

Hassel Free: If you have been in the business for any period of time, you know the single biggest complaint is drayage, labor and other variable costs.  Most exhibitors do a poor job of planning, and far too often they are surprised by their invoice.  Make it easy and look at “all in” packages that are inclusive of drayage, basic utilities, etc.

What are you doing differently to make for a better customer experience?

Brian Pagel is a Vice President at Nielsen Expositions, where he runs The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Since re-joining Nielsen in 2001, Pagel has also served as a vice president in the Decorated Apparel Group. A 15-year veteran of the publishing, convention and exposition industries, Pagel has also held senior account executive positions with Leader Publishing and Bill Communications.