30th September 2010
Exhibitions and events are the most powerful section for marketing, simply due to the sensory nature of the medium. That is the view of Jim Curry, deputy chief executive officer of the Association of Event Organisers.
Although Mr Curry and many others in the industry believe strongly in the power of events, there was no empirical evidence that backed this up. That was until neurological research was used to examine whether there was any truth in these hunches.
"When we commissioned the research for the FaceTime project, what we were trying to uncover were some known truths that we didn't have any statistical evidence for," he explained.
Cog Research, which carried out the study, developed a new methodology, designed to test out this hunch. A series of questionnaires was drawn up, asking visitors at live events to respond to the same set of measures before and after a show, which expressed ideas and feelings people might associate with the four events used during the process.
Mr Curry said: "I think a lot of the time research relies on ticking boxes and explicit answers to questions, whereas we were looking for sub-conscious response rates as well."
"We looked at live events and the impact they had on buying, sales [and] marketing, and their ability to connect with the audience and build relationships. Essentially, what we were trying to do was demonstrate that events can fulfil a lot more than just one business objective," he added.
The research revealed that live events have many advantages. One in three people showed an uplift in positive attitudes after an event, compared to just 25 per cent of people after watching a 30-second TV advert.
People's views also changed before and after a show, the study revealed. Less than a third (32 per cent) agreed that events were the best form of marketing to interact with and compare before a show. Yet, post-event, 74 per cent of people agreed with this statement. There was also an uplift in positive sub-conscious feelings for one in five people.
The positive psychological impact events have was also shown by how people felt about buying a brand's products. After a show, 28 per cent more visitors indicated that they would like to buy something from the brand, with 16 per cent sub-consciously indicating this. At a consumer event, this increased to 29 per cent explicitly and 19 per cent implicitly.
Prior to a show, 36 per cent of visitors said their attendance at an event made it easier to make a buying decision. This nearly doubled after a show, jumping to 76 per cent. According to the study, one in five of visitors showed a sub-conscious move to this view.
The number of individuals who believed an event was the best place to find out new things increased from 50 per cent beforehand to 85 per cent afterwards. Similarly, 38 per cent said they would find out new things, rising to 80 per cent afterwards.
Some 37 per cent felt a trade event was the best place to meet new contacts pre-show, rising to 71 per cent after the event.
The event industry suffered an 8.2 per cent decline in 2009 across tradeshows, although consumer shows fared better with a decline of just 2.9 per cent, according to Facts 2010. Yet, the FaceTime study shows how powerful events can be, said Mr Curry.
"We're trying to educate the exhibitors and the organisers about the power of live events. We're just arming people with statistics and facts about live events and how powerful they can be if they do it correctly," he added.
Exhibitors need to ensure that they plan carefully and develop a number of measureable objectives, he advised.
"A lot of companies will exhibit at an event and will have just one or two objectives and we're demonstrating that at the one event, you can have six, seven, even eight objectives, so long as you measure them."
"It's not just focusing on the sales, you might want to grow your database by 10,000 people, you might want to hold existing meetings, you might do speaker content and raise your company profile. So, it's just about demonstrating and realising the breadth of what you can do at a live event."