What can 13,000 Trade Show Visitors Tell Us?

Explori Releases

What can 13,000 Trade Show Visitors Tell Us?

18-Jan-2019 by: Sophie Holt

We published the findings of our 2018/2019 Global Visitor Insights at the UFI Global Congress in St Petersburg.  Produced in partnership with UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and supported by the Society of Independent Show Organisers (SISO), the report represents the biggest ever global study of trade show visitor experience.

In this article, first published in Exhibition World, report author, Sophie Holt discusses some of the findings...

Overall the view of trade shows amongst our visitors is positive and stable. 

When we look at the Explori Global Benchmarks, which contain visitor feedback on over 1,600 trade shows, key indicators of visitor experience such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) have been stable over the last three years, at +5 in 2016 and now +7 in 2018 for trade show visitors.  This is reflected in the responses to the survey; most visitors report trade shows are performing about the same, if not getting a little better.

Visitors think trade shows are getting better

But is fatigue is setting in for some regions?

We can see that visitors in markets where the trade show industry is more developed, such as Europe and North America, are more likely than visitors in developing markets to say trade shows are getting worse.  27% of visitors in North America think trade shows are getting worse, compared to only 14% in the Middle East and Africa.

Visitors in north america think trade shows are getting worse

The most cited frustrations for visitors will be a familiar list to most organisers: seating, catering, parking and queuing.

However, visitors with these frustrations generally like trade shows, find them beneficial and plan to attend them again in future.  When we look at respondents who dislike trade shows and do not find them beneficial, they tell us about very different frustrations.

Main frustrations for trade show visitors


Core drivers of visitor satisfaction

Visitors with negative views are much more concerned about their ability to meet the right exhibitors.  This supports the insight from the Explori global benchmarks, where we can map how closely different visitor objectives correlate with overall satisfaction.  Again, we see that exhibitors are key to visitors meeting their most important objectives of “sourcing new products” and “staying up to date with market trends”.

29 show directors and senior marketers were interviewed to support the research.  Many of them emphasised the importance of a seamless visitor experience and creating a “Wow-Factor” for audiences through tactics such as “festivalisation”.  Organisers may be in danger of under-valuing the core role of the exhibitor in driving visitor satisfaction.

range and quality of exhibitors are important concerns for trade show visitors

This study allowed us to understand visitors’ overall views of trade shows as a channel to meet their business objectives.  Again, the results were positive; across a range of business objectives, trade shows were the preferred channel ahead of social media, online market places and trade publications.

Whilst visitors are most likely to see trade shows as the best channel to achieve their goals, they do recognise and at times prefer alternative formats.


Shows that traditionally operate as buying forums are potentially at risk, and in fact 15% of visitors see online marketplaces as better ways to buy/source products, with this rising to 29% amongst under 24’s. Similarly, learning about the industry is facilitated by other channels such as trade media, conferences and social media, with only 34% who say trade shows are the best way to achieve this goal.  Those aged under 34 and women of all age groups are more likely to prefer social media as a channel to find new ideas and innovation.

It is important to note that whilst survey respondents said they expect their trade show attendance to remain stable, they expect to increase their use of all other media channels, potentially putting more pressure on the trade show model.

Changing frequency of use for marketing channels for trade show visitors







Many organisers however, see this as an opportunity rather than a threat as trade shows partner with other channels to attract visitors, or become content creators themselves.  Organisers refer to a desire to create communities around their events and provide content 365 days a year.  However, some express concern that to be successful at this the structures and skill sets within their organisations will need to evolve beyond one designed to deliver a trade show over a period of a few days.

Explori have just released a full report, giving much more detail on trends such as “festivalisation”, use of technology and attitudes towards sustainability.  It is available to UFI members via non-members can contact Explori to receive a summary.


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What they say

  • With Explori’s reports and analytics, we’re much better equipped to evaluate the customers' satisfaction and needs from our events
    Paul Byrom
    MD, Upper Street Events
  • The level of performance data and customer insight that Explori gives us is invaluable to our business and makes my life easier.
    Matthew Benyon
    MD, easyFairs UK
  • We wanted deeper insight into how our strategies impacted the delegate experience, but found conventional survey tools just couldn't deliver. Moving to Explori has completely changed this.
    Jan Barthelemy
    Head of AU & NZ Digital Marketing dmg events
  • We work with Explori to gain deeper insights into our events. The ability to compare results directly with similar events in our portfolio and against industry standards will be incredibly helpful
    Baris Onay
    Group Marketing & Digital Director, ITE
  • Analysis that could have taken the team days was available within hours of the survey going live. We could immediately see how the new German events had performed, against the context of our existing shows. Information like this is essential for informing future business strategy.
    Austen Hawkins
    MD, F2F Events
  • Robust performance metrics and customer feedback is essential for achieving maximum customer satisfaction. Explori will allow us to reach all our exposition delegates regardless of language or location.
    Art Paredes
    Sr. Director, Global Expos, SEMI
  • Explori helps us gain deep insights into the customer experience across our business. Without it, understanding our key performance metrics would be considerably more challenging.
    Andrew Evans
    (former) MD, Centaur Exhibitions
  • Our expansion plans are about both organic and acquired growth and Explori is key to our ability to understand the health and performance of existing assets, as well as those that we’re looking to acquire.
    Renaud Hamaide
    CEO, Comexposium
  • Explori makes creating and reporting on surveys quick and easy. We are able to work with the team to maximise responses and analyse the results to instantly see how our existing shows are performing. Explori allows us to not only look at the what we must do in the next 10 minutes, but also what we must do over the next 10 years.
    Rikki Bhachu
    Marketing Director, MA Exhibitions
  • The results of this research and Explori’s views give us and our audiences a new perspective on our events. They reveal areas with scope for improvement which we will be addressing as well as many areas of strength. It's been a highly valuable exercise and we’re looking forward to the challenge of maintaining and building on what we have achieved.
    Carina Bauer
    CEO, The IMEX Group

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