I’d estimate that maybe 25 percent of those reading this post would do better to sunset your expo for either your annual or topical conference.
Are you stunned by this statement? Hear me out. While most associations crave non-dues revenue, sometimes the expo portion of your program is a drag on profit speed. Perhaps it’s not delivering the same bottom-line results as it did in years past. Perhaps it’s not as highly valued by your paying attendees.
Five Business Indicators To Analyze
Here are five business indicators to help you analyze whether it’s time to close up shop.
1. Renewal Rate
If your expo is not able to retain at least 75% of your exhibitors each year, you have too much churn. Whether your revenue is steady or not, this is a huge concern. Brace yourself because your organization is going to spend too much money acquiring new exhibitors vs. building upon past success.
2. Exhibitors Not Invested
One attribute of a healthy trade show is that your exhibitors help drive traffic with you. In a healthy show, your exhibitors will be eager to tell all their customers they’re participating. They’ll distribute expo hall passes in droves, because they realize that their success is highly contingent on their ability to partner with you in attendance acquisition. If your major exhibitors aren’t doing this, you have a problem.
3. Bribery Drives Traffic
If you need to use food and beverage and booth drawings to get attendees to spend time on the show floor, you’re forcing it. I’m not saying these are bad tactics, but more often than not, they’re desperate moves to save a dying expo. The big question you need to ask is, are we delivering on the networking and education promise we made to the paying registrants?
4. Education and Solutions
Today’s business mentality has shifted from always be selling to always be helping. If your expo feels like a rummage sale instead of a solutions-based, educational experience, you’ll need to change that fast. Some shows have seen the light and only take money from exhibitors that have innovated something new or provide the kind of solutions and guidance that key attendees value highly.
5. Price Objections
According to CEIR, the average price for booth space is $31 per net square foot. If you’re priced below that and you’re throwing in two full conference registrations to sweeten the pot — yet you’re still experiencing significant exhibitor churn, price is not your problem.
Rest Assured, There Are Still Options
Before you make a go/no-go decision for your expo, consider other revenue streams to diminish your risk. In many cases I’ve seen, we’ve determined that many of the exhibitors could be converted to paying registrants. Some of the larger exhibitors could be persuaded to shift their investment to sponsorship. All in all, the revenue loss risk was low, but it was clear that an expo-free event was preferred by attendees and the expense savings were considerable.
Are you concerned that some trade shows might be losing their luster? What else can we do to create a more vibrant and valued experience for both buyers and sellers?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2013.