TSNN Survey Reveals Key Insights About Attendee Registration
Early bird discounts are still popular, but half of trade show attendees are registering less than one month out, according to part two of TSNN’s attendee registration survey.
According to the survey, 83 percent of show organizers offer early bird discounts or a limited number of tickets for attendee registration, while only 17 percent do not.
“Early bird discounts continue to influence registration patterns, although attendees tend to register later in the show cycle now, which has shifted the early bird strategy on some events,” said Jacy Barker, senior director of marketing services at RX. “On average, pre-registration numbers are at 95% of what they were pre-pandemic across our B2B events in 2023.”
Emerald is also reporting that overall attendance is close to pre-pandemic levels. “Attendance for the majority of the Emerald 2023 events that have staged to date are back to pre-covid levels, and we remain cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue,” said Joanne Wheatley, senior vice president of marketing and digital operations at Emerald. “We also see a leveling of the pattern we experienced at the end of 2021 and early 2022, when attendees registered later in the cycle. However, while our verification rates have yet to return to pre-Covid levels, our onsite registration has increased, indicating that a level of indecisiveness and last-minute decision-making remains a challenge.”
Last week, we released the first part of our survey data in our story TSNN Show Organizer Survey Reveals 7 Tactics to Drive Earlier Registration. This week, we are sharing the rest of the results, in which leaders at trade show management companies like RX, Informa and Emerald, as well as registration companies like Convention Data Services and Custom Registration weigh in on what’s working for their diverse mix of trade shows. Here’s what we learned.
Weeks Not Months
“In 2023, we consistently see our attendees registering later or closer to the show than they did pre-pandemic,” said Lauren Lamb, vice president, strategy, marketing and conference at Informa Markets. “We’re seeing our largest spikes in registration around our early bird deadline and within one week leading into the show. The two weeks leading into each event is driving a much more meaningful increase in registrations than expected pre-pandemic, and we believe it reveals a shift in our attendees’ decision-making process”.
Lamb continued, “The most notable new trend in 2023 is that we are seeing a larger percentage of people register on site than in 2022. As an example, in our infrastructure and construction portfolio, our last three traded events showed a 71.33% increase in onsite registrations, on average.”
When it comes to early bird discounting, Convention Data Services (CDS) is encouraging its clients to pay attention to the trends of who may actually be using those discounts, according to Darren Phalen, president of the registration that's owned by Freeman Company.
“Anecdotally, it already appears those using the discounts are long-standing legacy customers, which is to say the ones who were extremely likely to be attending the event anyway,” Phalen said. “If that trend holds true, it could present the idea that a discount very early on in the process actually reduces the event revenue while not drawing in any new attendees.”
He continued, “There then becomes potential that discounting somewhere later in the process or for other actionable reasons may actually be the smarter move for the event organizer to make.”
“We have an enhanced strategy, which includes another pricing tier in between early bird and standard pricing,” Barker said. “This Advance Pricing tier meets attendees in the middle, allowing them to register later in the event cycle, which seems to be a more common trend while incentivizing them to register at least two weeks pre-show so that they have time to prepare for the event and engage with our brand and planning tools.”
The early bird deadline is typically the only discount provided to attendees, and that remains consistent pre- and post-pandemic, according to Lamb.
“We’ve driven successful registrations with our early bird discount an average of five weeks in advance of our show,” Lamb said. “We strategically use this deadline in order to best communicate with our audiences.”
Lamb added, “Registering five weeks in advance allows us to help our attendees to best maximize their time on site, including securing their housing, learning about our show features, planning their expo hall experience and specific companies or products to visit, conference or education sessions, and networking opportunities.”
Ray Baum, director, business development at Custom Registration, shared an example from a client trade show scheduled to be held in March as an example.
“The event site went live in early November, and traffic was light,” he said. “The registration conversion rate was minimal through the first week of January. The trends did start to move upward, slowly but the first significant spike didn’t occur until the second week of February, when the early bird deadline approached. In a year-over-year comparison, attendee registration started much earlier for the 2022 event and had a very steady increase.”
Down to the Wire
“Most of our clients do offer an early bird discount, and when they are marketed correctly, both to alumni and the general population, they can be effective,” Baum said. “But those who post one just to have one don’t see the results.”
Baum shared another example of a client that held its annual conference in November.
“The 2022 event saw about a 15 percent increase in registrations over 2021,” he said. “In 2021, they attracted roughly 8,000. In 2022, it was close to 10,000, and there was a significant spike the last week before the show, with roughly 1,700 new registrations. In 2021, it had plateaued the week before, and there wasn’t a significant spike.”
He continued: “The verified attendance was much higher in 2022 than 2021, which saw a 66% registration to verified rate compared with 90 percent in 2022.”
Less Is More
“The question organizers need to ask is ‘What purpose do the questions being asked serve? If the data informs the organizer or exhibiting company to take action, there’s value in having your registrant take the time to fill out the questions,” Phalen said. “If you are simply collecting data for data’s sake, you may be able to reduce the time to purchase.”
When considering demographics, it’s often smart for the organizer to move specific demographic questions to a different point in the process, possibly even post registration or to have that information become a part of their member registry outside of that specific event, according to Phalen.
“In 2024, we plan to make the early bird discount even more attractive across our shows,” Lamb said.
TSNN will host a webinar on this data as well as the tactics to drive earlier attendee registration. Interested? The first 100 people to sign up will get access to this exclusive event, along with a copy of the full results. Sign up here.
Main photo: PGA Show, RX