Adi Clark: Great expectations

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Why do registered visitors and delegates not turn up? Adi Clark, head of Insight, the NEC’s in-house research team, examines the question…

Pre-registrations not turning up is something I’ve been curious about ever since I joined The NEC Group. Someone once told me that the industry average for pre-regs not turning up to an event was consistently 50 per cent – that’s an awful lot of missed opportunity! I was regularly told that the common wisdom was people didn’t turn up for all sorts of reasons, mostly down to other commitments like work pressures, plus some other random ones – off sick, or got the dates mixed up, the kids were taken ill.

While I was comfortable to believe that these excuses were valid for some people, it seemed to ignore the fact that some people just didn’t think the show justified a day out of the office.

From other sectors I’ve worked in, there is always a clear, defined group of people who will or won’t buy your product, so
I wanted to see if the same applied to people that will or won’t attend an event once they’d pre-registered.

It’s fair to acknowledge that the advancements in technology, which most of the time benefit our industry, have made it very easy for people to become pre-registered without any level of engagement, which has its obvious disadvantages such as leading to a false sense of interest in a show.

With all of this in mind, we’ve been working with one of the leading organisers to analyse the pre-reg data from a couple of its shows, looking for distinctive patterns within those that do attend versus those that don’t attend. In both cases, all registrations required some level of engagement as opposed to automatic badging, yet there were clear differences in the profile of attendees and non-attendees.

Analysis shows that attendees were more likely to have registered recently, whereas non-attendees were more likely to have been registered for some time. Non-attendees were also more likely to have heard about the show from specific marketing activities, whereas attendees were much more likely to have been previous visitors or to have been invited by exhibitors. For each show there was also a clear difference in the role types and seniority of those that attended and those that didn’t.

The breakdown has provided us with pockets of people that don’t attend events, and we can draw some sensible conclusions on why they don’t attend because of that profile. This tells us the “who” but not the “why”. The next step is to carry out a survey to those pockets and ask them why they didn’t come and what we could have done differently to make them come because we know it’s not just down to random reasons that they decided not to attend.

In the meantime, we can still make changes based on the results of the profiling. If we know that early registrants are less likely to attend, then their pre- show communication needs to be more compelling. Not everyone needs an extra incentive, but the pockets that are less likely to come (especially those that are believed to be high value) are going to be worth spending time targeting and engaging.