Exhibitions are more than just a marketplace. They are an annual gathering of a community – trade or public. And when done right, the community takes ownership of the event, which is simultaneously amazing – and terrifying.

Amazing because attendees become super fans and evangelists. They are invested all the way. They tell everyone they know how wonderful your exhibition is. How much they look forward to going every year. It’s “their” event. Terrifying because as super fans, they think they know what’s best for the event on every level – including content creation, operations, and marketing – even though they are not in the face-to-face event business. Some are so passionate, that they become hypercritical and don’t hesitate to share their opinions.

Your exhibition is THE meeting place of the industry in your country, region or perhaps the world. Because it is the place to be, it grows. As a result, changes happen. More education. More space. More people attending and exhibiting require more rules. A move to a new venue or even a different city may come into play. Unfortunately, some people will take these changes as a personal affront. They become detractors. Complainers. Their dislike for the new, expanded version of the exhibition is directly proportional to the amount they adored it.

How do we re-engage our former evangelists and now detractors? Sometimes, a personal touch works. Having a show director call a critic may be an enlightening experience for both sides. Finding out why long time attendees no longer make the journey may lead be symptomatic of being out of touch with the industry. Or not. Perhaps provide targeted programming or special networking sessions or reverse mentoring for old-timers.

What does your team do to make critics feel valued, special and bring them back into the fold?

For a deeper discussion on this subject, please join us Thursday, Dec. 7th for #UFIChat  (11am New York, 5pm Paris) where we will discuss the latest UFI-Explori insights into Exhibitor Net Promoter Scores on Twitter.

 Photos: Sinking ship: Retently.com; supporters: https://www.apassion4jazz.net