AEO - Association of event organisers

Supporting your exhibitors in their return to live events.


Supporting your exhibitors in their return to live events.


After seeing over 500 shows cancelled or postponed in the last few months it’s extremely pleasing to see events are back up and running again in parts of Asia and mainland Europe.

But what measures do exhibitors need to consider as we all get ready to go live again? And how are we as organisers helping them?

The good news is, they need us.

In a recent survey run by the exhibitor group of 1000 exhibitors, we found that 92% are experiencing some impact as a result of cancelled and postponed shows. We are the number 1 resource of sales leads, relationship building, product launches and brand awareness for so many of our customers. And when compared to virtual events, 78% say that virtual events are less valuable or far less valuable than live events.

You might not know when your next live event will be, or you’re still waiting for the UK government to give the green light, but this article should give you an understanding of what the AEO Live Events Promotion group have been discussing and signpost some useful resources to help you construct your own approach to helping your customers return to shows.

The clear take away from our last group meeting was that the customer journey and experience is ever-changing.

We need to communicate with our exhibitors and visitors with empathy and remember that many of our clients have - like us - had a tough time during Covid-19, meaning that their confidence in events may be shaken, with many uncertain that they would see the ROI that they have come to expect from exhibiting – perhaps the biggest challenge for marketing teams. 

It is our job to be sensitive to this, understanding that there may be financial and physical barriers our customers could be facing, and adapting our approach to think of innovative and robust solutions to meet their needs.

How can we do this?

Firstly, remember whilst our customers recognise the importance of exhibiting at shows, they are living in their own reality and a sales-heavy approach will be a big turn off.

Sales teams have relied far too long on promoting visitor numbers, photos of crowded aisles and networking events to demonstrate ‘success’. They need to prioritise being a good listener, empathetic and above all knowledgeable about their customers pinch points and where events could play a role in helping their business.

The AEO delivered a great webinar in partnership with Flume Sales Training on “Upskilling Sales Teams for a Changing World” drilling into the need to adapt to the new buyer and prove the value in events more than ever. Free for members, have your teams listen in and apply the learnings to their next sales call.

Secondly, remind yourself and your clients why exhibiting is key to gaining exposure and growing their brand. FaceTime research piece “The Power of Live” has some handy quickfire stats that your sales and marketing team can pull out and pass on to your customers, cementing the value in events and highlighting the benefits of face to face business.

If you want to dig into some more detail and equip yourself with sound knowledge that can support your customers, take a look at the “Guide to Knowing Your Customers” (in the AEO member zone) which came off the back of Karen Blackett’s popular 2019 Forums Session, explaining what success looks like to your audience.

Thirdly, remember that empathy isn’t just needed in the sales process. Language needs revisiting in everything from exhibitor manuals and COVID-19 safety procedures, to payment terms and registration – ensuring every touchpoint of the exhibitor experience is handled with care.

We are seeing changes in the frequency of our communications. This is all part of having a dialogue with our sector, engaging with our audience as partners rather than customers and not waiting until registration is live or agendas are ready before getting in touch. Some organisers are doing weekly updates for their audience to keep them on the journey back to live events, others are exploring virtual to enhance their products and services, keeping their customers engaged 365.

The AEO will be launching a webinar with Marketing expert Steve Kemish on “Communicating with you Customer” on the 22nd of July, free for all members and packed with top tips on adapting the language we are using, along with timelines on when messaging could change.

Now is the time to drill down to the real ROI or ROO that exhibitions provide – pipeline impact, anticipated customer retention, brand perception impact, human connection, impromptu business meetings, and new opportunities or joint ventures and a time for us to look at our strategy to deliver this more cohesively.

Yes, events will be ‘different’ – and our job is to communicate how they will be ‘better’.

What are our final thoughts?

Let your exhibitors know that you’re not doing it alone and that we’re part of a global, coordinated industry that are working together with your safety at the heart of all our decision making.

Project confidence

GO live together

Emma Cartmell – CHS Group (LEP chair) and Michael Adeniya – Clarion Events (LEP vice chair)

  • "Broadway Events joined the AEO on the Enterprise Membership. We’ve already taken advantage of the many benefits including the excellent FaceTime Masterclasses and training guides for exhibitors."
    Emma Barrett
    Broadway Events
  • "We are a member of the AEO because it is a proactive association for the events industry. As an organiser it provides us with high value ideas, networking, guidance and information."
    David Harrison
    PPMA Group
  • "This year, the association has led working groups to address industry issues and put on some amazing events full of insightful content for both organisers and, through the AEOs FaceTime initiative, exhibitors. In addition, the AEO has represented the industry at a Governmental level to raise awareness of the importance of events to the UK economy."
    Paul Byrom
    Upper Street Events
  • "I genuinely believe that if you’re involved in organising events you should become a member of the AEO."
    Simon Kimble
    Clarion Events
  • "Our membership of the AEO represents real and tangible value for UBM - it provides fantastic networking opportunities, practical training for our team as well as valuable insight into the state of our industry."
    Simon Parker
    Informa Markets
  • "As an Association business, we appreciate the excellent work the secretariat of the AEO do for our community. From the events side of our business, the AEO provides an excellent return on investment, providing thought leadership, fantastic networking, brilliant awards, excellent research and FaceTime, a valuable tool to tell our markets why exhibitions and events should be an essential part of the marketing mix."
    Neil Felton
  • "AEO’s networking and member meetings are valuable for individuals at all levels within our organisation. The promotion of our sector to the outside world, to government, authorities and business at large is another vital aspect of the AEO’s purpose for members, many of whom, like my company, work on events throughout the world."
    Stephen Brooks
    Mack Brooks Exhibitions
  • “Knowledge is power and the AEO dinners are certainly powerful, there is always a wealth of knowledge at the table. Insightful presentations make for a constructive and extremely social way to learn from the experts who’ve done it before. I attended the Japanese evening and gained really valuable insight about the culture and how best to communicate with a local audience.”
    John Whitaker
    Vice President Marketing, Data & Digital , dmg events
  • "We have the opportunity to contribute positively to the industry as well as gaining valuable insight and advice. There’s no need to spend valuable time and money reinventing the wheel when you have so many experienced professionals in AEO membership to learn from”
    Emma Cartmell
    CHS Group
  • "JOINING THE AEO HAS BEEN FANTASTIC! Being able to gift our customers with free places at the FaceTime masterclasses, learn alongside industry peers and seek advice to common challenges is invaluable”
    Sharon Azam
    GovNet Communications
  • I just wanted to send my most sincere thanks for everything that you and the AEO team are doing to help navigate the events industry through the pandemic. The working groups and communication from the AEO have been excellent and I’m really appreciative of being part of such a wonderful organisation.
    Simon Burns
    ICHF Events
  • I think what the AEO has been doing during this tough time has been exceptional.
    Greg Cherry
    QD Events LTD
  • It is so useful to hear from your peers at this time. Please pass my thanks to Ruth and the BTIG panel
    Dan Assor
    CloserStill Media
  • Just wanted to thank you and Ruth this morning for the Zoom meeting - it was really interesting to hear how things are moving along in the virtual/hybrid meeting/exhibitions. All very new to me, so a lot to digest.
    Maureen Wright
    Optic UK
  • The session this morning was fantastic. We are right in the midst of this and the information was so useful. We can apply it immediately
    Claire Adams
  • The AEO provides an opportunity to make a difference, to work with other companies for the good of the industry as a whole, but beyond that, it provides it’s members with valuable insight and tangible benefits to grow your business, upskill and engage your teams. For those reasons, our membership is in indelible ink on the each annual budget. In short, if you aren’t a member, you are missing out.
    Ed Tranter
    73 Media




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