IAEE Session Debrief: Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

knowingPost authored by Jeff Fugate, SVP Sales & Marketing

Once again, IAEE’s Expo!Expo! surpassed expectations with an endless stream of great ideas for trade show organizers to explore.

One standout experience for me was hosting a “guru gathering,” Trade Show Smarts: Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

While I was honored to do this and the topic was a good one, the time slot wasn’t exactly ideal. This session was scheduled at the very end of the final day. That’s usually the point when many are heading home.

Happily, there were 30-plus die-hard trade show executives who joined us and the questions they asked and stories they shared were priceless. I’d like to share a few highlights:


Knowing Trade Show Guests: Demographics vs. Psychographics

Many trade show organizers are collecting and analyzing demographic data to know and serve attendees better experiences. Demographics examine the who and might include gender, age, location, income, education, marital status, etc.

But demographics are now the opening ante in the trade show knowing game. To better compete today, you can’t settle for knowing just who they are—you need to know WHY they buy. That’s where psychographics come in, examining how attendees think and feel at any given point in their journey. It moves a layer deeper into their attitudes, aspirations and what motivates them to attend your show.

knowingThe Four Boxes of Knowing

Sometimes, even the most experienced executives can get “knowing” wrong. When you think about how quickly our world is changing and the disruptions hitting nearly every industry, accuracy is crucial to ensure a prosperous trade show future.

Keep in mind, knowing has a much shorter shelf life these days. What we knew last year doesn’t always align with what we need to know today or tomorrow. As the rate at which things change increases, it’s causing a few more sleepless nights for trade show organizers, particularly for those managing shows where attendance is stagnant or declining.

During our session, we went on to explore The Four Boxes of Knowing, a model first introduced several years ago by Skip Walter, Director of Innovation at The TAI Group. What I like most about this four-box visual is it helps everyone grasp this concept of knowing faster and better.

As it relates to the trade show environment, most agreed each element was in proper proportion, give or take. We invested the bulk of our time speculating about what might fall into that fourth and largest knowing box and the consequences of ignoring that knowing gap.

Not Knowing (and Wrong Knowing) Puts Revenue at Risk

Innovation is a challenge for many these days and for good reason. As event guest expectations soar, many are concerned about keeping up. No sooner do you delight your guests and you’re back to the drawing board, trying to come up with the “next big thing.”

Then there’s the “Curse of Knowledge,” a cognitive bias where the more familiar you are with something, the more your blind spots grow. Over time, while nobody knows your show better than you do, you’re also losing the ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s less familiar.

And when that happens, you find yourself settling for incremental changes—hardly enough to resonate with today’s more discerning trade show audiences.


This quote says it all. Capturing and analyzing behavioral data is hands-down your best remedy to remove these blind spots and make sure you’re up to speed on what matters to your trade show audience, now and into the future.

Advancing Your Knowing Mastery

During the session, we reviewed an assortment of behavioral data capture methods, from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to various applications of Bluetooth beacon technology, evaluating the pros and cons for each.

Remember, this group was sticking around for the last round of learning sessions at Expo!Expo! Most were above average on the data capture knowing curve. In fact, quite a few shared lessons they’ve learned in their quest to know more.

We wrapped up this session with a few “What if?” scenarios:

  • Beyond booth visits, what if you could know how long attendees lingered at each booth?
  • What if you could know which booths are generating the most traffic at any given point during your show?
  • What if you had more detailed insights on activity at pavilions, theaters, VIP lounges, etc.?
  • What if you had more behavioral data (ROI evidence) to share with premium sponsors and exhibitors? How might that speed up renewals and boost investments in your show?

Want to KNOW more? Check out this breakthrough solution and then, let’s talk because we have many more enlightening trade show “knowing” stories to share.

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