Think you know what tech attendees want? Think again!


A new report by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reveals some striking differences between what tech tools you think attendees want and what they really want.

CEIR surveyed 380 exhibition planners and 420 business pros who attend at least one industry show per year. Happily, and perhaps not surprisingly, the center found that organizers and attendees agree on the top three most important digital tools: free WiFi (81 percent), charging stations (71 percent), and the ability to download speaker presentations (64 percent).

But agreement takes a turn for the worse from there.

While 66 percent of attendees value the option to request product information via scanning badge or supplying an email address, only 44 percent of organizers think they do. And, while 55 percent of attendees want live demos or showcases accompanied by product information on interactive screens, only 34 percent of organizers think they do. What’s more, 34 percent of attendees say they would love to find multiple screens in one room, where they could watch multiple sessions from one location. But only 14 percent of organizers think they would.

Both sides nearly agree about social media walls: 34 percent of organizers believe attendees consider the walls key to the experience, and 31 percent of attendees say they do. But while 78 percent of organizers use social media to help keep attendees on schedule, only 12 percent of attendees rely on it. When it comes to text messages, 54 percent of organizers send them out to keep attendees on track, but only 11 percent of recipients use them.

Instead, 40 percent of attendees stay organized with calendar tools on their smartphones or tablets. Event websites come next (35 percent), followed by event-specific mobile apps (25 percent) and digital directories or kiosks with searchable touch screens (24 percent).

A full 87 percent of organizers supply mobile apps for their events—and another 7 percent plan to add them in the near future. But less than half of attendees use them—only 44 percent. Among the 56 percent of attendees who remain app free, 43 percent say they don’t want to load down their phone for one-time use, 17 percent won’t risk downloading from an unknown source, and 27 percent prefer a printed guide.

The report ends with how participants feel about tools like radio frequency identification tracking their position on the showroom floor. Half say it’s fine with them, 31 percent are neutral, and 21 percent say they’re uncomfortable—or profoundly uncomfortable—with digital tracking. But wait. According to CEIR, it turns out that 85 percent of millennials don’t mind tracking their whereabouts, but 61 percent of baby boomers do.

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Annette Burden

Annette Burden

Annette Burden has written and edited for Elite Meetings International since 2007. In addition to writing on travel for other publications, she founded and edited Meeting Traveler, Resorts & Great Hotels, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazines.

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