Four Things To Consider Before Adding A New Show Or Conference

Many associations are looking for new ways to generate revenue.

Often the annual meeting is the largest non-dues source of revenue for the association’s budget. When the Great Recession hit, many associations were forced to slash budgets, rethink conference strategies and search for new revenue streams. Now that the economy has begun to slowly improve, some association leaders are considering adding another tradeshow or conference to generate new revenue streams.

Here are four things to consider before adding a new tradeshow or conference to you annual lineup.

1. Opportunities
Where are the opportunities? Where are the needs? Do these opportunities fit us? Do they align with our core mission? Does it match with our member demographics? Will it attract new blood? Is it something that we can build on or is it a flash opportunity? Where can we as an association, with our limited resources of money, people, time and competence, make a difference and set a new standard? What are the needs within this area? Are there others already playing in this area of the sandbox? If we enter this area, how can we create a new dimension of performance? How can we set a new standard?

2. Managing Risk
How can we mitigate the risk? Can we incubate the new event by co-locating with an existing, successful conference? Should we partner with another organization? Should we test the waters with a webinar, virtual or hybrid event to ensure there is sufficient interest?

3. Competence
Does this new opportunity align with our strengths and past performance? Is it something that we already do well? Do we have the human and organizational resources to get this job done? If not, by adding additional resources, can they serve a purpose beyond the conference or event?

4. Commitment
Is this something we believe in? Does it align with our mission?

Most people over the age of 30 have heard the story of the Edsel automobile. The 1950’s car failed miserably. Ask why it failed and you’ll get a variety of answers.

Some say it failed because of its unique front-end styling. Consumer Reports cited poor workmanship. Marketing experts point to corporate America’s inability to understand the American people and its culture.

Some will say it failed because Ford didn’t do its homework. Quite the contrary, it was one of the best-engineered, best-researched and best-everything car. There was just one thing wrong with it: nobody at the Ford Motor Company believed in it. It was contrived. It was designed on the basis of research and not on the basis of commitment. Business experts claim that its lack of backing from the executive offices as well as anyone inside Ford led to its demise.

So when it got into trouble, nobody supported it. Without personal commitment of those at Ford, it certainly never could be a success.

Will this new conference or tradeshow have the commitment of the Board of Directors, the executive director, that staff and the association’s members? Are we ready to go all in? If not, why are we doing it?

Every new association endeavor, including possible new shows or conferences need to reflect these four things: opportunities, managing risk, competence and commitment.

What other things would you add that associations should consider before embarking on adding a new tradeshow or conference to their mix?

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  1. Adrian Segar says:

    What an excellent list!

    One small comment – if we’re ranking in order of importance, I’d put commitment first. Listen to what your intuition is saying, and if there’s passion that implies commitment then take a long hard look at the opportunities, risks, and your competence to execute.

    Perhaps this viewpoint just reflects my Myers-Briggs type, but that’s what works for me.

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  3. ‘@Jeff

    I like the 4 items in your list. @Adrian I’ll disagree on commitment being number 1. I think opportunities must be #1. In learning what your membership/attendees want you gather an understanding of what changes/additions are worth wrapping a committed group around. My thought here is to bring customer voice together with corporate commitment and it seems you need understand need/want before you can commit.

    All rankings aside the point is made. These are all ingredients needed to bake a new event.

    To that recipe I’d add a heap of “Cause”.

    You gave brief pause to mission. I’d This is the perfect time to take a deep look at the association’s purpose, history and current impact. Are we (association) still focused on the right mission? Has the mission changed? Grown? Do we need a new mission altogether?

    From the depths of this associo-psychoanalysis (yes I just made up that word) comes the discussion of opportunities.

  4. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Adrian, Jeff and I totally agree with you that commitment trumps the other three. I tend to be a committed optimist, but sometimes if your audience is not ready for what you think is the next opportunity or if things happen that are not foreseen, you can still fail to reach desired results.

    @Kevin, love your Cause addition. Adding a bit of emotion can certainly go a long way to growing commitment. Also, it is time to change things up. Many associations are struggling with mature products and a declining value proposition. They definitely need to be innovative to remain relevant and attract new blood.

    Bandwidth is an issue when launching new stuff. Smart associations will take a real hard look at what they need to stop doing to create headroom for their new commitments. Just because the revenue is there today, doesn’t mean that it will be there tomorrow.

  5. Roger Wilson says:

    I say “content is queen and cash is king” but my vote would still be to put commitment #1. My motto accross media has long been “first figure out what you want to say, and then figure out how to make it pay.” Being editorially driven may not yield the highest financial return but in many cases it taps into creative juices that don’t flow with the cash flow.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I like that motto! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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