Industry Updates

The Role of Exhibitions in Supporting Organizational Learning:

23 Jun 2013

Attending for Competitive Advantage

Today, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) issued a report The Role of Exhibitions in Supporting Organizational Learning: Attending for Competitive Advantage which provides an overview on learning preferences, a snapshot of the prevalence of each type of learning preference and an overview of differences in importance placed on general reasons for attending as well as importance placed on attending an exhibition for the first time.

CEIR Research Director Nancy Drapeau, PRC, said, "Understanding the learning preference of attendee organizations as it relates to purchasing offers invaluable insights to organizers and exhibitors that are helpful for development of event content and marketing strategies."

"It’s not about how often they go, but what they get out of attending, how exhibitors can maximize the organizational learning value for an attendee, and which learning preferences make better prospects," said Dr. Jeff Tanner, Professor of Marketing at Baylor University."

An earlier report from the What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions study documents that two-thirds of attendees visit exhibitions for learning opportunities, both personal and organizational. This report focuses on organizational learning as it relates to purchasing.

It defines four categories of learning preferences, ranging from those who work in organizations with strong organizational learning investment and mechanisms down to those who engage in minimal organizational learning. These learning preferences are labeled as Strong, Moderate, Weak and Intermittent.  

Key findings of note:

  • The most common organizational learning preference of attendee organizations is Moderate, with 49 percent of attendees falling into this classification. Moderate learners place high importance on a systems approach that demands audits of purchasing and where an individual’s role in the purchase process or supply chain is clear.

  • Other less common learning preferences of attendee organizations are Weak (23 percent), Strong (21 percent) and Intermittent (7 percent). Each preference influences learning needs relating to the organization’s purchasing process and reasons for attending exhibitions.

  • When selecting a new exhibition to attend for the first time, on an importance scale of one to seven where 1=Very Unimportant and 7=Very Important, Moderate learners place highest importance on selecting an exhibition that offers Value for Money (5.45) and Information Relating to Current Decisions or Issues (5.26).
This report is based on findings from What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions, a study conducted by Jeff Tanner, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing at Baylor University, and Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director for  the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) using a panel of exhibition attendees provided by ResearchNow. The study was made possible by a grant from the CEIR Foundation and is available at

IAEE members can access the CEIR library and reports at no cost – a benefit of IAEE membership.

About CEIR
CEIR serves to advance the growth, awareness and value of exhibitions and other face-to-face marketing events by producing and delivering knowledge-based research tools that enable stakeholder organizations to enhance their ability to meet current and emerging customer needs, improve their business performance and strengthen their competitive position. For additional information, visit

Susan Brower, CMM, CCP
+1 (972) 687-9207

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