As an exhibitor, when was the last time that you sat and really thought about what your visitors and prospective customers want when they come to your event? To be more specific (and to improve the words of a song) what they really really want?

Much research has been done on your behalf by the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) uncovering what visitors want, their frustrations and aspirations when attending an event. Quite a useful picture is now emerging of ‘robo-visitor’ which helps us to position our products and services in the best light. It appears that the number one reason for visiting a show is to find out the latest information or view the newest products and services. Their number two reason for visiting an event is to find solutions to existing problems.

The other trend appears to concern how often they visit and how long for. In the case of trade shows, as workloads increase universally, the visitor is under more and more pressure to explain and justify time out the office. No longer can they attend all the industry events under the guise of networking or staying abreast of industry trends. They are now choosier over which shows can command some of their time and how much time they afford to those events. Many trade visitors are attending for shorter bursts and many pre-plan their journey through the aisles having pre-identified prospects on their lists. They also are more demanding and expect to source their suppliers and partners at the event. This may mean fewer visitors but those that attend are increasingly likely to be serious buyers. In the case of a consumer show, expectations have also increased and the visitor expects entertainment and a ‘good day out’ as part of the package (especially where they have paid gate money).

The main frustration (across both trade and consumer visitors) seems to be not finding the information they would expect to find on a stand. In other words asking someone on the stand a question only to be told that no-one can help them there and then. For those of you with a technical product it is worth having a ‘technical’ expert on hand at all times or at least access to them by mobile. These key findings are supported by the expected rash of minor ones including; transport and parking issues, expensive or low quality food, queues, being pounced on and ‘sold-to’ as well as ignorant or disinterested stand staff, leaflet / brochure thrusting and not being listened to. On the positive side they like most of the opposites to the aforementioned list as well as freebies and giveaways, the chance to network, show offers or special promotions and good service.

When you consider their lists of likes and dislikes one can’t help wondering why some of them even make it to the list? There is very little that appears to be unreasonable or outlandish in their list of demands and aspirations. In fact I suspect that anyone with a memory one up on a goldfish should be able to remember them. Common sense, I feel, but not sadly, common practice.