Across the world, trade show visitors are reporting overall satisfaction with the shows they attend but at the same time, 22-27 percent of show visitors from mature markets believe that shows are “getting worse.” Meanwhile, younger C-suite show participants are asking for trade shows that are more entertaining while still helping them meet their business needs.

These are some of the core findings of the recently released 2018/19 Global Visitor Insights Study, which was jointly conducted by UFI – the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and London-based event research specialists, Explori.

Based on a combination of the global UFI network and the global reach of the Explori customer and research base, the 2018/19 Global Visitor Insights Study provides the largest ever global insight into exhibition visitors, according to UFI officials.

“This study confirms the central role of exhibitions for visitors as their clear channel of choice for their business development,” explained Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI.

He continued, “In addition to highlighting the key drivers of visitors experience and the impact of the age of visitors, the study also reports some significant regional differences and a clear indication as to how organizers can address core elements of the way visitors experience their shows.”

Based on the analysis of more than 13,000 responses from trade show visitors from 135 countries, combined with in-depth interviews with 29 event directors and senior marketers, the study provides numerous insights and valuable takeaways for exhibition professionals, including:

Globally, trade shows receive a 3.86 (out of 5.00) overall satisfaction rating, and a Net Promoter Score of +7. Both values have remained stable over the past three years. Organizers appear to be doing an effective job at maintaining visitor satisfaction and advocacy, however, visitors from developed markets are showing more signs of fatigue from the traditional trade show model than those from developing markets.

Visitors rate the trade show channel as “best of class” in regards to their core business needs to network/meet people, to buy/source products, to learn/stay up to date with the industry, and to find new ideas/innovations. However, they indicate that their use of other channels will grow at a greater rate than that of trade shows.

The ability to source new ideas and solutions is most closely correlated with overall visitor satisfaction. Therefore, access to an appropriate number of quality exhibitors remains key for visitors. In parallel, the traditional model for trade shows needs to evolve to meet changing needs or audiences: preferences of younger visitors and those from developing markets are beginning to change the current balance; approach to sustainability also becomes a compelling factor in some cases.

Organizers perceived visitors as expecting a more seamless experience and this corresponds with the areas that frustrate visitors most. Seating areas, catering and waiting times top this list. WIFI accessibility only appears at number nine on the list of frustrations but is more likely to be seen as an issue by younger visitors.

Whereas event technology can have a beneficial effect on the visitor experience in many areas, there is still a general lack of awareness, functionality and execution that currently limits its value to both organizers and visitors.

“Global Visitor Insights is the most expansive study we have yet undertaken during our partnership with UFI and we were delighted by the support from organizers around the world in helping us secure such a large response base,” said Sophie Holt, global strategy director of Explori and author of the report.

She continued, “I would like to thank all the organizers who participated, especially those who shared their experiences, hopes and frustrations during the research interviews. I look forward to sharing more report insights with the industry throughout the coming year.”

For the 2018 Global Visitor Insights study, 13,000 responses from trade show visitors in 135 countries were analyzed in addition to a meta-analysis of the Explori global data-set comprising visitor feedback from over 1,600 trade shows.

The UFI/Explori Global Visitor Insights are jointly researched and written by UFI and Explori, and the report is supported by The Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO). The research series includes three in-depth reviews of what exhibitors and visitors expect from show organizers and venues.

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