Exhibitions 3.0 – a new winning formula

Exhibitions 3.0 is a new framework designed to help organisers adapt in challenging conditions. Developed by consultancy AMR International, the White Paper sets out the organiser’s journey of transformation, building on AMR International’s Exhibitions 2.0 toolbox and Community Catalyst concept. AMR executive chairman Denzil Rankine (pictured) offers EW this exclusive extract. Click here to read the feature in the EW April/ May 2022 magazine. 

The pandemic brought unavoidable, chaotic change to the exhibitions industry with short notice cancellations, safety protocols and the experimentation with online stopgaps. As the industry recovers, reactivating the face-to-face machine in a ‘new normal’, there is no question that the winning formula post-pandemic will be different to the old one.

Winning organisers are shifting their priorities

Through our work and conversations with organisers, AMR sees that winners will place customers at the heart of their evolved business models. This is a shift away from a long-standing focus on exhibitors to products and solutions that aim to meet attendee needs and objectives.

Importantly, the introduction of online channels and formats means organisers can engage audiences beyond those who attend in person. As we have previously described in The road to community catalyst paper, this broader engagement allows organisers to transition into the role of community facilitators or catalysts.

The potential of data, technology and insight will be critical. This means using data-driven understanding of audiences, far beyond demographics. Data will define needs and target interactions, then value-add engagements will provide enhanced value to customers. Many organisations call this digital transformation. We call it Exhibitions 3.0, as it’s more than digital – that should simply be endemic. And it’s the logical extension of AMR’s original Exhibitions 2.0 framework.

Exhibitions 3.0 – Four main ingredients to success

Exhibitions 3.0 is a framework and series of steps that enable organisers to secure longevity for their brands through improved customer relationships.

1. Develop a ‘North Star’ – a vision

As with any strategic transformation, clarity of direction is essential. North Star sets the ambition and the future state, articulating what the organisation wants to be famous for. Thinking through the ‘art of the possible’ is a good exercise to get there.

The North Star generates alignment across the organisation, helping to navigate the complexity. For example, introducing digital channels is far more than launching digital events. A well-defined North Star might set the agenda of serving customers more broadly and improving specific areas of performance such as sales and marketing processes.

2. Putting customer needs at the heart

For too long the focus of event organisers has been the exhibitor. As we move into Exhibitions 3.0 this must be on the attendee, not just those who turn up, but the entire universe of relevant professionals.

•  Just as successful media brands have extended reach with digital, organisers can use tech and data-based approaches to extend reach across multiple channels. The opportunity is for organisers to facilitate connection and relationships far beyond the show floor.

•  Similar tools also extend depth. By developing behaviour-based profiles of customers, exhibition brands can better understand attendee needs and provide more value to exhibitors by delivering leads enriched with data.

•  Tools such as personas can help to define structured segmentations. These give a deeper understanding, strengthening the historic core business while presenting new revenue and service opportunities.

3. Ways of working

To achieve Exhibitions 3.0, organisers need to adapt current ways of working across culture and organisation; data; and talent.

a. Culture and organisation

•  Organisers should embrace ‘test and learn’ and agile approaches to accelerate the development, design and implementation of products and solutions. Part of this is celebrating failures and sharing lessons learned.

•  A shift to 3.0 is bigger than a digital hire or establishing a digital department. Careful thought is required to assess the extent to which new skills sit centrally within the organisation. A new structure may better serve segmented customers through a range of channels with targeted content
and offerings.

b. Data

• Organisers will require a holistic and robust data strategy. This encapsulates the purposes of that data, as well as what data to collect and how to collect it.

• Data warehousing, analytics and visualisation will then turn raw data into meaningful and actionable insight.

c. Talent

•  As with any transformation, there will be a mandate for new skills. This talent can come from within or from outside the industry. AMR has already set out the new role of the event director in How to structure the events organiser of the future and the journey towards more rounded and expensive talent. We are now seeing these trends play out.

4. Measures of success

There are new measures of success beyond financial. They measure both customer activity and success, as well as the progress of the brand towards its strategic goals.

a. Customer KPIs measure the value provided by increased quality and quantity of engagement, across:

•  Base engagement with products such as newsletters

•  High traffic moments such as webinars, meet ups or regional events, and

•  Peak engagements such as in person exhibitions.

b. Brand KPIs combine:

• Select digital and other engagement metrics, such as brand perception.

•  Sentiment metrics such as NPS

We see four avenues for incremental revenue generation through Exhibitions 3.0:

i. Uplift in core business: With deeper customer understanding and better targeted engagement across channels, attendees obtain a better return on time and exhibitors improve return on investment. This supports pricing in the core business and can lead to new pricing opportunities such as LaaS – Leads as a Service.

ii. Content: Targeting audiences with content, data and information can provide additional lead generation and sponsorship opportunities. In some cases, ROI is clearer and more defined than elsewhere.

iii. Exhibitor services: Organisers can offer additional services for exhibitors to enhance visibility or to generate leads at events. With careful delivery that is linked to the value offered, these can be bundled. In one case we have witnessed a 10% revenue uplift.

iv. User services: Organisers already monetise educational content. In a few cases, ultimately some brands can move to membership revenue models based on the value generated by the overall offering.

Overall, we see that success can only be achieved by setting a new direction that is genuinely customer centric. It is powered by data and new ways of working, and success is measured in new ways.

Organisers can keep up with customer expectations by delivering valuable outcomes to both attendees and exhibitors, within the core business and also in the broader community. The investment in this transformation can be structured to bring improved returns to customers, and in turn to organisers.

To download the Exhibitions 3.0 White Paper please click here.