Inner Circle

Event Marketing  

The Great Reopening

by Jess Hammett


mdg, A Freeman Company and UFI hosted an executive roundtable last month in conjunction with Lippman Connects’ Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum. In case you missed it, here are the 4 actionable insights into the future of international attendee acquisition you need to know, now:


State of the Global Industry: The Great Reopening
As countries around the world continue to lift restrictions and mandatory quarantines, organizers are looking forward to “the great reopening” of international events. While the rebound is picking up speed, there are still several challenges to international participation:

  • The uncertain economy. With the economy in flux and inflation at an all-time high, budgeting and pricing for live events is tricky.
  • Sustainability concerns. The need to show the intrinsic value of an event is critical for exhibiting companies, especially when a closer or virtual option might be available.
  • Increased travel costs. Skyrocketing travel costs are impacting everyone in the event industry in 2022. For international attendees, the sheer cost of travel could be the most significant barrier to attending.


So, What’s Next for International Attendee Marketing?
The path forward is best expressed by Mary Larkin, president emeritus of UFI: “We can be optimistic, but not complacent.” The old-school methods of international attendee acquisition are not going to be sufficient as we move out of the pandemic. Anjia Nicolaidis, international marketing director at mdg, recommends four strategies that all organizers should be implementing:


1. Monitor Your Markets.
Knowledge is power when it comes to understanding the challenges you’re facing from each region. Understanding local market realities will help you know where and how to invest your marketing budget. Develop a system for monitoring and staying agile. Know where and when to accelerate marketing efforts as the situation changes in your key regions. Don’t get locked into a plan that cannot be quickly adapted as the need arises.


2. Plan in Advance.
International attendee acquisition has always operated on a longer marketing cycle than domestic and that has been greatly exacerbated by COVID-19. While countries may be opening to international travel, there are new and complicated logistical challenges. Help your prospects by understanding the visa limitations and additional planning needed for travel and make information available as far in advance as possible. On the exhibitor side, supply chain issues are impacting the ability for exhibitors to get product to an international show. They will need more time to manage logistics to participate. The last thing an exhibitor wants is to come on-site and have a disappointing presence because they can’t get product there in time.


3. Utilize Partnerships.
Partnerships have always been a key component in recruiting international attendees, particularly delegation programs. But now, more than ever, utilizing strategic partnerships in your target countries is a key piece of attendee acquisition. Leverage tactics that allow you to have touchpoints within the country, rather than simply duplicating efforts you employ domestically. Partner with local associations with alignment to yours or work directly with departments of commerce. And now is the time to be proactive in engaging your partners. Provide information and marketing materials as far in advance as you can. Host virtual meetings regularly to make sure delegates are over-prepared to organize on your behalf.


4. Have a Human-Centered Approach.
Our biggest obstacle is going to be on a personal level. Encouraging individuals to register and travel, despite so much uncertainty in the world, will require a personal touch. Translating the same basic marketing materials for each region is a thing of the past. It’s time to take an in-depth look at how you’re defining the value of your event for international regions and enlist in-market partners and influencers to help you communicate that value to prospects. The principle of social proof says that in uncertain times people look to peers and experts to help guide their decisions. Your messaging will be far more convincing to prospects when it’s delivered by the voices of in-market leaders they respect and trust. The bottom line: Try to understand why someone would jump through hoops to attend your event and pitch that to them on a personal level.