Identifying And Segmenting The Conference Target Audience

Shoot Any Thing Saturday

Is the goal of your annual meeting to make revenue for your organization?

If it is, then are you attracting the right customer to your event?

Show Me The Money

Some associations with significant tradeshows make 60%-70% of their revenue from exhibit booth sales. Another 10%-20% of their revenue comes from sponsorships and advertising. The remaining revenue, approximately 10% to 30%, comes from attendee registrations.

With such a large percentage of the revenue coming from exhibitors and sponsors, doesn’t it make sense that we need to fully understand what those groups want from our conference experience?

If you survey them, you’ll get responses like the following:

  • We want qualified leads.
  • We want to see and spend time with a person from the company that has the authority and responsibility to purchase things.
  • We want to see the C-Suite of executives that control the purse strings and buying decisions of the attending company.
  • We want to see our clients and continue to strengthen those relationships.
  • We don’t want to see just anyone walking the tradeshow floor. We want to see the economic buyer and the decision maker.

If you’re seeing a decrease in exhibit sales and sponsorships, perhaps your conference is not attracting the right target customer.

But, you may say, we just want bodies on the show floor. We don’t really care who they are, we just want aisle density.

That’s where there is a major disconnect. If your conference is not attracting the right customer that your exhibitors and sponsors want to see, you will eventually begin to see a decline in revenue. And if the goal of your conference is to make a profit for your organization, you’d had better start thinking differently about your customer.

Segmenting Your Audience

If you see your conference audience as a homogenous, faceless clump of people, you’ll have a hard time selling them as the right audience for your exhibitors and sponsors.

Instead, think of them as a long line of individuals waiting to have a conversation with you. Do you want to talk to everyone of them? Or do you want to seek out the individuals that have the authority and responsibility to purchase products and services for their organizations?

Ultimately, your conference audience includes a mix of people–individuals in diverse roles, with various levels of decision-making authority from different parts of the organization. You as the conference organizer have to decide which subgroups are the most important to your conference, based on those that are most important to your exhibitors and sponsors. Then you need to zero in on those subgroups’ needs when you are developing content and securing speakers. The more programming that you provide that helps those subgroups solve their problems, the more likely you are going to attract the right audience that your exhibitors and sponsors want to see.

Your primary goal in increasing revenue is figuring out which customers will have the greatest impact on your exhibitors and sponsors. Then view yourself as a curator of content for your most valuable and powerful stakeholders. Identify those with the most influence and design your programming just for them.

Don’t worry about alienating other groups. Typically, the programming that attracts your target market is also important to other groups.

Why do so few conference organizers think about attracting the right target market that their exhibitors and sponsors also want to see? What keeps us from identifying and segmenting the economic buyer and decision makers that our exhibitors and sponsors want to see most?


  1. says

    As always, thoughtful, relevant and for heaven’s sake people – listen up! You get attendees to come to your events ONE at a time. There is no such thing as mass marketing unless you happen to be a major rock band – and most conferences are not playing in that space. No matter how important your association to your market (think FICP, PCMA, MPI in our industry as examples) you still need to give each exhibitor, sponsor and potential participant a reason to attend by providing them ideas, innovations and solutions to their problem, and the time and space for discussion with the “right” people – facilitators, exhibitors, sponsors, presenters, and each other – to make the experience worth repeating again the next year.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      I always smile when I seen a comment from you!

      I like you candid, shoot from the hip talk, “…For heaven’s sake people – listen up!” It’s so true that we still try mass marketing and forget about segmented target marketing! Thanks for adding to the dialogue!


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