Exhibitors have caught on that the price of their booth subsidizes other parts of the conference. Depending on the conference, the attendees and sometimes even the show organizers treat exhibitors as second-rate citizens. Exhibiting is time consuming, both the planning and the attending, complicated and expensive. Having a booth in the expo hall has lost some of its allure.
Exhibitors need to reach their audience but they struggle with this so they still need association conferences – for now.
Exhibit space is very expensive. Maybe it didn’t used to seem so expensive when advertising, direct mail were also so pricey. Now some exhibitors are finding other ways to reach their audience and they are turning to content marketing. Webinars, social media and articles are far less costly compared to the total cost of exhibiting which is starting to look like an increasingly large and sometimes risky expenditure. Keep in mind it’s not just the space and the carpet they take into account. Travel, hotels and shipping are large costs too and it all adds up from the $36/dozen bagels to the drapery to thousands of dollars in shipping to get the booth and materials there on time.
Now marketing budgets have gotten tighter and marketing and sales professionals have to prove an ROI on each line item. This is hard to do with conferences since there are so many variables for success. City, venue, date, exhibit hours, booth placement, traffic, incentives, attendance and marketing communications work in concert to deliver either a really great show or a really terrible one. Every show becomes a gamble. Will we have many meaningful interactions with customers or will this be a waste of time and money?
Why the change in sentiment among exhibitors? Because they question the value of our conferences. For many exhibitors at many conferences the value is starting to fade. Attendance is down, interactions with potential customers are not high quality and the expense is too steep. The good news is we still have a exhibitor problem to solve: helping to connect them with customers in a meaningful value added way. Perhaps it is through a better conference exhibit experience. Or perhaps we leverage exhibiting company’s expertise in totally new and different ways. Either way members and exhibitors can tell us exactly how to do this for them.
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