Saying please: The one thing you can do to save your exhibitor post-event survey

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Saying please: The one thing you can do to save your exhibitor post-event survey


In the hubbub (or exhaustion) of the post-event comedown, exhibitor satisfaction surveys can feel like a bit of a poor relation.  Visitor surveys are carefully crafted, distributed and analysed within an inch of their lives for some clues to improve the event strategy for the next cycle.  Yet poor exhibitor surveys are often left until last minute – or whisper it quietly – not done at all…

Given that the majority of events in the UK rely on their exhibitor and sponsorship revenue to survive, it seems counter-intuitive to skim over the views of these oh-so-important people.

However, many of the organisers we work with are sceptical of the results they have historically achieved from their exhibitor survey.  They don’t get a strong response and from experience find that exhibitors that do respond are the ones that have plenty to moan about.  They make grim reading and a poor basis for forming future strategy.

Anyway, your sales teams are speaking to exhibitors all the time, so of course they have a really good overview of the mood amongst the exhibitors.

Don’t they?...

Actually, there is an element of bias in each interaction between one of your sales team and an exhibitor that means the feedback is not reliable.  Unlike an anonymised feedback process, both the exhibitor and the sales person have an objective in the conversation – the sales person trying to illicit the biggest spend possible and the prospect trying to get the most possible for their budget (or justify delaying their decision to spend).  It’s doesn’t help negotiations from the prospect’s point of view to say “This was the best event ever – we’ve made millions from the leads generated” if their objective is to get the best possible deal on the stand they plan to book.  It also doesn’t help the sales person’s pitch to objectively listen to any concerns – they will kick into “objection handling” mode exactly as they should.

On the flip side if the prospect has a good relationship with their account manager, or they are a generally “nice person” (they do exist) they may feel uncomfortable giving negative feedback directly.  They may blame internal factors (budget cuts, boss not available to authorise etc) for being unable to book a stand, which although the net result is the same, is very little use to an organiser trying to make strategic decisions.

If your event is successful, it would be logical to expect an increased proportion of your exhibitors to book their stand for the following year on-site.  Great news for the organisers, but this can also have unintended consequences.  Once the signed contract is on the books, how many of your sales personnel have the time or skill set to maintain a genuine account management relationship with the client for the rest of the show cycle?  Or will the client now only hear from finance and operations teams chasing for outstanding payment or forms?  

Growth in exhibitor numbers tends to outpace additional resource in the sales team; inevitably each exhibitor will get a smaller and smaller slice of account management time.  So even if the changes are only slight, each exhibitor is receiving less attention and less opportunity to have their concerns listened to each year the show is run.

A well-considered, timely exhibitor-feedback survey is an important weapon in the event organiser’s arsenal.  It allows you to capture a complete picture of your exhibitor views and analyse them empirically.  It mutes the voices of the noisy few and allows you to explore the experience and perceptions of the otherwise silent majority, allowing you to make better strategic plans. Ideally you would also compare your results year-on-year and compare them with industry-wide benchmarks to give you leading indicators as to your event’s future performance.

So what is the one single thing you can do to improve the response rate for your beautifully crafted survey?

Simply ask them to complete it. Say please!

Yep, that’s it.  Personally ask them to complete it, face-to-face or at the very least over the phone.

When you approach them to re-book on site, or with a follow-up call from their account manager, explain that exhibitor feedback is critically important for the life of the event and ask them to take a few minutes to complete the survey when they receive it.

If you thank those who did give feedback (with a call or email, no need for prizes) and let them know what will happen based on their feedback, this is even better.

Give all these individuals who are so important to your event’s success the opportunity to tell you all the ways, both big and small that you can ultimately help them spend more with you.

We are seeing clients gain 11-15 point uplifts in their exhibitor survey response rates by using this easy tactic.  We’d love to hear how it works for you too!

Let us know – or if you’d like more advice on how to improve your post-event research please feel free to get in touch.

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Olly Watts
Head of research

#Exhibitor survey

#Post show research

#post event research

#customer satisfaction

#Survey design

#Research best practice



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