Exhibitors Speak Out: Don’t Hinder Our Efforts

June 22, 2021

Dana Freker Doody

Dana Freker Doody is a 20-year devotee to trade shows, events and communities. She recently became Vice President of Marketing and Communications at JUNO, the service leader among virtual and hybrid event platforms, where unlimited exhibitor engagement suites are included at no charge and 365-day engagement is a reality.

Exhibitors in a broad Ascend Media study shared some major pain points, recently published on LinkedIn. The feedback is worth digging into, and worth digging into EARLY in experience design, not late. It’s worth elevating these ideas to a strategic planning level and finding solutions for the stakeholders that financially support your events.

We are addressing the Top 10 Concerns in a series of posts that outline solutions for supporting exhibitors in a virtual environment. We’ve distilled the Top 10 pain points into four big ideas to present solutions.

The Four Big Ideas for Exhibitor Satisfaction:

  • Help Us Engage
  • Don’t Hinder Efforts
  • Teach the Tech
  • Make Good Choices

No. 2: Don’t Hinder Efforts

What exhibitors said:

  • “Don’t limit the number of our outreaches to attendees based on sponsorship level. We pay to network and interact unlimitedly at the in-person conference.”
  • “Mandate essential info contact and profile information from attendees has not been very complete. Critical pieces of content should be mandated.”
  • “Qualified attendance can drop if virtual registration fees are dropped too low. Larger numbers of attendees don’t necessarily mean more leads for us.”
  • “If you give attendees the option to opt-out from our contacting them, many will take that option – which makes us question our participation.”

What to do about it:

In a recent interview on Clubhouse, Ascend’s Donna Sanford likened limiting the number of outreaches to closing down a section of a physical exhibit hall early if too many attendees had walked down the aisle and stopped at a particular booth. No one would ever do that. 

  • Communicate the value exhibitors and sponsors bring to the organization and the event overall, from the very top levels and key stages. If your event raises money to keep advocacy programs intact or membership investments low, tell that story. Exhibitors are there to build connections so beware of limiting them to 10 messages per day and decimating their ROI. The ones sending spammy messages shouldn’t ruin it for those genuinely ready to support attendees.
  • Data-check attendee info. No one would issue a physical badge to Mickey Mouse, so unless it’s an animator conference, don’t allow that guy into the virtual meeting. Run quality assurance on data and mandated critical pieces of information. Speaking of badges, if you would have different color badges in-person, consider profiles marked attendee and exhibitor as well.

In the hybrid events era, as digital takes precedence in the future of work and events, mindsets must change. Educate all stakeholders about the value every party brings to the ecosystem. Beware of putting policies in place that are punitive for any.

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