Our crystal balls are pretty foggy when it comes to predicting the return of in-person expo and sponsor revenue. Three of the big questions are:
- With the advancement of digital demos, will exhibitors opt for smaller booth spaces?
- If marketing budgets intended for show participation in 2020 or 2021 were reallocated, or not spent, will corporations recall the good days and include your show in the 2022 marketing budget?
- Will poor ROI from virtual shows negatively impact future spend decisions?
For larger shows, advance deposits for booth space are often paid nine months in advance. This means show organizers who postponed in 2020 had already received 50% or more of booth fees. For many shows, those funds were carried forward to the virtual and/or next live show. This means that exhibiting companies have not allocated and spent their marketing dollars on live expos for nearly two budget years. Use-it-or-lose-it budgeting is alive and well in many corporations and is a real threat to near-term show revenue.
Three Strategies for Protecting Expo and Sponsor Revenue
1. Organize around your top customers, not your products.
Exhibiting companies despise multiple and competing asks. If you have multiple team members, or vendors, soliciting your exhibitors for booth space, sponsorship, and print and digital advertising, this is the year to bring it under one account manager. Do this for the top 10% or companies by total investment. If you have 200 exhibitors, build an account management plan around the top 20. Retain them, and others are likely to follow.
One of the keys to growing sponsorship is to have senior leadership open doors. The same holds true when you are building a plan to proactively retain your largest or anchor exhibitors. Assign senior executives to each company and schedule calls with your top investors to discuss your plans for returning to face-to-face.
2. Double down on sponsorship.
Now is the time to diversify your expo and sponsorship revenue mix and reimagine your sponsor menu/offerings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Eliminate most sponsor items that are promotional or advertising. These usually include bag inserts, print advertising, banner ads and room keys.
- Eliminate sponsor inventory that was not purchased during the past two conferences. If two-thirds of your inventory is not being sponsored, you have a problem.
- Add new inventory that allows sponsors to be viewed as thought leaders. Also add inventory that improves the attendee or VIP experience.
- Organize your sponsor menu like a restaurant would: Appetizers = Attendee Experience, Entrée = Thought Leadership, Dessert = VIP Experiences.
3. Create comprehensive, bespoke packages.
Most exhibitors and sponsors prefer to write a single check. Help them get the most bang for their buck by creating packages that provide exposure before, during and after the show. Include visibility and activation through all of your channels, including any used for virtual participation. Comprehensive and customizable packages should be organized using these buckets:
- Home base/Presence – Where can sponsors meet-up with existing clients or prospects? This can include a booth, private meeting room or sponsor activation area.
- Access Passes – How many conference badges are included? What VIP events can they attend? What special access can they provide to their clients and prospects?
- Content and Experience – speaking or panel slot, keynote sponsor, webinar, session rebroadcast, track sponsor, featured article. Reception, charging stations, wellness programs, mobile app.
- Advance/Post Recognition – promotional and registration emails, website, newsletter, social media mentions, company description on website/mobile app
- Onsite Recognition – main stage, signage, mobile app, virtual access platform
What are your predictions for 2022 expo-and-sponsor revenue recovery?