Report Explores Link Between Learning Preferences, Purchasing at Exhibitions

Understanding their learning preferences can help exhibitors market — and ultimately sell — to attendees, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which today released a new report that explores the connection between learning preferences and purchasing at exhibitions.

Titled “The Role of Exhibitions in Supporting Organizational Learning: Attending for Competitive Advantage,” the report is a follow-up to CEIR’s previous report, “What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions,” which concluded that two-thirds of attendees visit exhibitions for learning opportunities, both personal (i.e., to advance their careers) and organizational (i.e., to advance their organizations). It provides an overview of types of learning preferences and of how each type influences attendees’ purchasing behavior.

“Understanding the learning preference of attendee organizations as it relates to purchasing offers invaluable insights to organizers and exhibitors that are helpful for development of event content and marketing strategies,” says CEIR Research Director Nancy Drapeau.

Specifically, “The Role of Exhibitions in Supporting Organizational Learning” defines four categories of learning preferences: strong, moderate, weak and intermittent.

Key findings:

• Attendees’ most common organizational learning preference is moderate (49 percent). According to CEIR, moderate learners “place high importance on a systems approach that demands audits of purchasing and where an individual’s role in the purchase process or supply chain is clear.”

• Other, less common learning preferences are weak (23 percent), strong (21 percent) and intermittent (7 percent), each of which influences learning needs relating to the organization’s purchasing process and reasons for attending exhibitions.

• When selecting a new exhibition to attend for the first time, on an importance scale of one to seven — where 1 is “very unimportant” and 7 is “very important” — moderate learners place highest importance on selecting an exhibition that offers value for money (5.45) and information relating to current decisions or issues (5.26).

Concludes Dr. Jeff Tanner, professor of marketing at Baylor University, who conducted the study with Drapeau, “It’s not about how often [attendees] go, but what they get out of attending, how exhibitors can maximize the organizational learning value for an attendee and which learning preferences make better prospects.”