Event organisers who don’t know what exhibitors and visitors like and what they might be missing are making a big mistake. After all, you not only want to do business with your customers now, but in the future as well. And this is much easier with satisfied customers. Wolfgang Uellner, Director Market Research & Analytics, explains how Messe Frankfurt collects information about this and what is planned for the future.

What market research activities does Messe Frankfurt engage in?

We engage in numerous activities, as many factors influence the success of current and future events. We conduct exhibitor and visitor surveys as well as market and industry analyses, for example. It is also important for us to know what the competition is up to. We can draw conclusions and derive measures from all this information to offer exhibitors and visitors ideal services.

How do you get feedback from visitors and exhibitors?

We regularly conduct visitor and exhibitor surveys. Per year we carry out these at approx. 100 events—20 in Germany and 80 abroad. We take various different approaches to this and have developed standardized processes. Visitors to the event are approached by our interviewers and asked to complete electronic questionnaires on a tablet at a survey terminal. Of course, we ask questions about the reason for their visit, their satisfaction with the event, or how they like new services and concepts. In addition to this, we collect some standard information such as age or occupation to meet the requirements for a visitor structure test defined by FKM —the association for voluntary control of trade fair and exhibition statistics.

Exhibitor surveys are conducted in the same way. We have found that a personal visit to the trade fair stand and handing over of a questionnaire on the morning of the penultimate day of the trade fair work best. As a rule, we then collect the exhibitor feedback again by the afternoon of the last day of the fair. We thus achieve an excellent response rate of 70-80 percent. We have also tried putting the exhibitor survey online. Since the response rates were significantly lower at 10-15 percent and the results were not available until much later, we decided to continue the existing approach.

And how do you evaluate the surveys and what happens to the results?

Here, too, the processes vary. We briefly evaluate the visitor survey responses every evening after an event day. We pass on the results to the colleagues responsible for the respective event, who then use the feedback directly to respond quickly if necessary to points of criticism and to make the trade fair visit even more efficient, pleasant and interesting for visitors and exhibitors.

The exhibitor questionnaires are digitized and evaluated on the penultimate day of the event so that we can provide our colleagues with a first impression of the mood of the exhibitors during the event. By the end of the event, we therefore already have a clear idea of the mood, which we also use as input for media communication. We are pleased to report that we have achieved very high levels of satisfaction with our events as a whole, both among exhibitors and visitors. In some cases, the level of satisfaction is even well over 90 percent.

Based on the collected data, we analyse the respective event in detail and, if necessary, derive appropriate development measures or make respective adjustments. This data also provides us with the basis for strategic decisions regarding upcoming events. For example, we can clearly see changes in visitor structures. This enables us to tailor trade fair concepts even better to the requirements of visitors and exhibitors. We can also derive various indices, such as our internal loyalty indicators for visitor and exhibitor satisfaction, which can be used to benchmark our events internally.

 What do you plan to do to achieve an even clearer picture of the mood?

Fortunately, digitalisation and technological development do not stop at market research, but offer a wealth of new tools and possibilities. In general, we would like to use existing data and information from various sources more intensively in the future to gain in-depth insight into the behaviour, wishes and goals of our visitors and exhibitors. Modern tracking tools, for example, can be used to make concrete statements about the whereabouts and length of stay of visitors. Actual behaviour is measured instead of just queried. Important additional information can be generated from this for customer-oriented event optimization.

Technically, this can be achieved using Wi-Fi trackers, SIM card location or badges with integrated RFID transmitters. Push inquiries sent to visitors’ mobile devices in demarcated areas are another exciting option. This makes it possible, for example, to find out whether presentations or workshops are meeting visitors’ expectations.

Despite all the euphoria about what is technically feasible, we examine and question very carefully what makes sense and what is necessary to adapt our events and services even more closely to the needs of visitors and exhibitors, and thus position ourselves for the future.