ASAE Foundation Study Delves Into the Future of Tradeshows

By: Rohit Verma

The latest on the research partnership between the ASAE Foundation and the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.

What impact do trends like social media and mobile technology, sustainability and social responsibility, and budgetary constraints have on association tradeshows? That's what the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) and the ASAE Foundation will uncover by partnering on a multiyear research project that will look at the future of tradeshows.

Using a multiple-stakeholder lens, the study will generate findings useful to everyone from meeting planners and attendees to exhibitors, buyers, and sellers by identifying best practices, tradeoffs, constraints, and relative preferences. The findings will also help association executives understand their tradeshow options at both the macro level (selection of geographical location, venue, and timing, for example) and the micro level (such as design of the convention facility or expo booth).

Phase One

In the first phase of the project, which kicked off in September 2011, the project team conducted an initial review of practitioner and academic publications related to tradeshows. In December, two focus groups took place, with participants representing various associations, CVBs, and meeting organizers and attendees. Project team members then spent January to March interviewing destination/ lodging executives, meeting planners, exhibitors, and attendees.

Results of the first phase show that a tradeshow's success depends on multiple criteria, but the goal, as in any other business, is to maximize the return on investment for all stakeholders. Of course, smaller details—such as a great facility, food, or location—will affect attendees' experience, but ultimately four major factors contribute to the ideal tradeshow experience for both exhibitors and attendees:

  • organization from an attendee's point of view
  • location of the tradeshow
  • successful booth-design layouts
  • consideration of how to improve the tradeshow experience

Next Steps

The project team recently developed a comprehensive survey to collect responses from different stakeholders regarding their preferences and tradeoffs associated with tradeshows. The 15-minute survey will test several hypotheses generated during the first phase of research and will include questions related to all aspects of tradeshows. If you'd like to participate in the survey, please send a note to [email protected].

The results will be released through academic journal articles and a Research Report Series published by CHR, and at various internal conferences, including ASAE's Annual Meeting & Exposition in Dallas in August.

Rohit Verma, Ph.D, is professor and executive director of the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University. Email: [email protected]