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Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which oversees research on the exhibitions industry, teamed with Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) to produce “2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study.”

This study provides a comprehensive overview of the latest insights on what young attendee business professionals are looking to experience when attending a business-to-business exhibition for their jobs as well as how they find out and decide which exhibitions to attend.

“We thank SISO for underwriting this important research and for the continued privilege of delivering these important insights to the exhibition industry,” said Brian Casey, CEM, president and CEO, CEIR.

Since 2009, CEIR has conducted generational research to keep a pulse on what young professionals are looking for when they attend events and how best to market to them. What findings from this research remain valid today? What adjustments are needed to assure alignment with young professional preferences? Which exhibition industry practices have enduring value, resonate with young professionals and should not change? This report provides answers.

“SISO is pleased to make this contribution to the exhibition industry. Young business professionals are our future. It is essential to have the most current insights on this audience, to keep a pulse on what they want when attending and assure that marketing efforts are aligned with their media consumption habits,” stated Lew Shomer, executive director, SISO.

The report provides a profile of young professionals by their career attitudes, extent of participation in exhibitions, and motivations for attending and not attending. The decision-making process for choosing exhibitions is explored as well as information sources relied upon when searching for an exhibition and assessing the role of social media and word-of-mouth information sources.

It also addresses preferred communication methods with organizers for pre-event, onsite and post-event communications. On-premise preferences are delineated for floor interaction, education offerings, special activities and use of technology and other information sources on-site. Lastly, this study outlines what young professionals identify as high value takeaways as a result of visiting and their intent to visit in the near future.

Key findings of note:

  • Young professionals who have attended a business-to-business exhibition show a strong affinity for the channel with 98 percent identifying one or more high-value takeaways as a result of attending, and 93 percent indicate it is likely they will attend in the next several years.
  • The dominant important reasons for attending are similar to attendees in general, they come to shop (86 percent) and learn (83 percent). Learning is of higher importance to young professionals, with four of the top five reasons overall relating to learning. Experience is also listed as an important reason, at 67 percent. Seeking an event that will inspire and motivate them came in at 44 percent.
  • The primary information sources relied upon when searching for prospective exhibitions is: direct marketing from organizers, email (58 percent) and direct mail (41 percent) as well as emails from exhibitors or vendor/suppliers (41 percent) and their boss (33 percent). Results suggest the need for a multichannel mix as 20 percent or more of young professionals also rely on multiple, other information sources.
  • Most young professionals, 97 percent, are involved in the selection process of prospective exhibitions with 66 percent providing recommendations to their boss. These results are a call to action for organizers to market directly to young professionals.
  • Young attendee floor interaction preferences point to the interest in having an interactive, immersive experience with product and people. They seek product demonstrations, a chance to interact with friendly and welcoming staff as well as with product users. Young professionals are interested in sharing their ideas about new product enhancements and ideas. They are attracted to booths with giveaways and that teach in an entertaining way. They come prepared, over half have done pre-event research. They come armed with their mobile devices, with 42 percent admitting that they use their device to take pictures of booths and products to look at later or share with others.
  • Though young professionals use their mobile devices to capture pictures, their information resource of choice for on-premise information is the printed exhibition program (59 percent). Surprisingly, only 26 percent use a mobile app version of the exhibition program. The primary reasons offered for not using the mobile app version of the report among non-users is preference for the printed version (37 percent), and dislike of downloading an app for a one-time use (35 percent).
  • As to be expected, the most popular education content topics align with young professional interest in building their skills for career advancement. What is shifting among young professionals is the format for education – they like formats that are interactive, that give them a chance to participate rather than listen passively, with workshops as the most popular option at 51 percent.

“2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study” provides a more thorough discussion of the key findings shared above as well as results on other topics. Additionally, differences by subgroups, including gender, career attitude profile and other key demographics are provided.

An excellent companion report to this study is the recently released Best Practices by Exhibition Organizers to Attract and Retain Young Professional Attendees report. It provides an overview of exhibition organizer efforts to serve this audience along with 11 case studies.

In 2015, SISO is sponsoring a second CEIR study, which will focus on the needs and preferences of young professional exhibitors.

To read the full study, visit here.

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