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ceir-growth-value-face-to-face-interactions-august2012.pngB2B exhibitors and attendees alike have seen growing value from a variety of face-to-face activities – such as exhibitions and conventions – in the past 2 years, according to an August 2012 study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). 37% of exhibitors say that they have seen more value from their exhibits in the past 2 years, compared to 16% who have seen less value from them. Attendees are even more favorable: 48% have seen increasing value, compared to just 6% who have seen less. It’s not just exhibits that are growing in value for these respondents, either. Among the 78% of exhibitors who have made in-person sales calls, half say that the value of these calls has grown in the past 2 years, while just 4% say their value has declined. Similarly, among the 59% of attendees responding to the survey who have made in-person sales calls, 36% have seen their value increase, versus 15% who have seen their value decrease.

The CEIR reported in March that the exhibition industry rebounded strongly in 2011, with revenues, attendees, and exhibitors all up year-over-year.

Exhibitors, Attendees Maintain a Positive Outlook

Exhibitors and attendees share a positive outlook for the next 2 years. 43% of attendees believe that the value of exhibitions and conventions will increase in the next 2 years, as do 37% of exhibitors. Similarly, among those who have used or attended educational conferences and hosted buyer events, a greater proportion predict the value of these activities increasing than decreasing. B2B exhibitors are most positive about the value of in-person sales calls: among the 78% who have made such calls, 46% believe their value will grow in the next 2 years.

Economy, Online Interactions Temper Face-to-Face Activity

Details from CEIR’s “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction” indicate that both the economy and the ability to interact online have tempered the potential for exhibitors to engage in face-to-face activities. For example, more respondents believe that the Great Recession has contributed to a decrease in the number of exhibitions and conventions they exhibit at, than an increase. Respondents are also more likely to feel that the Great Recession has prompted a decrease in the size of their exhibits, number of sales personnel, and number and/or budget of private company sponsored events, than an increase. Exhibiting budgets have been especially affected by the economy: 47% believe their budgets have decreased over the past 2 years as a result of economic conditions, compared to just 22% who said the Great Recession prompted an increase in their budgets.

The ability to interact online has had less of a negative effect. In fact, for the number of sales personnel, more exhibitors believe that online interactions have contributed to an increase than a decrease.

Other Findings:

  • Out of 10 possible face-to-face options, exhibitions (48%) topped the list of most valuable interactions for attendees, followed by sales calls (28%). For exhibitors, in-person sales calls (44%) and exhibitions (43%) were virtually tied for the most valuable activity.
  • 77% of attendees say that face-to-face interaction with current vendors is very or extremely important in performing their jobs, while 81% say the same about such interactions with potential vendors.
  • 85% of exhibitors say that face-to-face interaction with existing and prospective customers is very or extremely important for their job performance.

About the Data: The CEIR respondents include domestic and international participants from a sampling of the top 250 business-to-business exhibitions in the United States, which includes a sampling of attendees and exhibitors from 27 of the top 250 exhibitions as well as a sampling of exhibitors from Exhibitrac’s top 250 exhibitions database. Online surveys were fielded in April 2012 generating samples of 9,215 attendee surveys and 885 exhibitor surveys. Each sample achieved a 3% response rate.

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