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CEIR report: Generational differences in face-to-face interaction preferences and Activities

While face-to-face interaction remains the primary driving force in the tradeshow industry, a new report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) indicates there are significant differences in the ways members of each generation engage others.

“The good news is that face-to-face interactions at exhibitions are highly valued by professionals of all generations, including younger professionals,” said Nancy Drapeau,  research director, CEIR. “The fear that the relevance of this medium will wane with younger professionals is not evidenced in this study; however, there are differences organizers and marketers need to understand.”

Generational research is a hot topic in light of the forthcoming, massive generational shift in the workforce. In 2015, it is expected that Millennials will overtake Boomers as the larger portion of the workforce. As Boomers begin exiting to retirement, Millennials will share ranks with Traditionalists, Boomers and Gen-Xers.

The new report entitled “Generational Differences in Face-to-Face Interaction Preferences and Activities” offers an in-depth look at shared and unique preferences and behaviors relating to face-to-face marketing, which can help organizers meet the face-to-face marketing preferences and needs of each generation.

Key findings of note include:

  • Though the top five, ranked reasons for attending are the same across generations, motivations for attending diverge thereafter. The majority or more professionals of all ages come to look for new products, gain insights on industry trends, network with colleagues, see and talk with current vendors/suppliers, and look for new products/vendors. Additionally, younger attendees also seek to gain inspiration and motivation for their jobs; while more Older Millennials/Young Gen Xers and Boomers also go to attend conference programs or sessions.
  • For all age groups, exhibits at exhibitions are ranked number one for delivering important face-to-face interactions for job performance.
  • In looking at the value exhibitions deliver today compared to two years ago, as well as looking forward to the near-term future, most professionals say the value is the same or greater. The perception of increased value is greatest among the youngest professionals in terms of the value exhibitions deliver today as well as anticipated value in the next two years.
  • One last key finding of note relates to the effect of online interactions with attendance at exhibitions and conventions. For most attendees, interacting online has no impact on attendance to trade exhibitions. A larger percentage of younger professionals indicate interacting online has increased attendance to trade exhibitions – 26 percent of Older Millennials/Young Gen Xers and 31 percent of Millennials.

The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction study series examines the long-term value of face-to-face marketing and exhibitions in particular in light of major economic fluctuations and the influx of technology and alternative marketing tactics, including digital media. More than 9,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors participated in this initiative. The study was made possible by a grant from CEIR.

CEIR serves to advance the growth, awareness and value of exhibitions and other face-to-face marketing events by producing and delivering knowledge-based research tools that enable stakeholder organizations to enhance their ability to meet current and emerging customer needs, improve their business performance and strengthen their competitive position.

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