Forward Thinking

Expo Growth Factors

According to the latest CEIR Index, exhibitions just experienced the highest quarterly increase in eight years. How does your show stack up in comparison?

The Q1 2015 CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) Index report marks the 19th consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth in the exhibitions arena. Revenue jumped 7.3 percent, net square feet grew 4.1 percent, exhibitor numbers increased 3.3 percent, and attendance went up 3.7 percent.

Does this reflect the growth you’re experiencing with your exhibition? If not, you’re not alone. The majority of professional B2B conferences that we’ve analyzed are underperforming in comparison, leading us to believe that the CEIR Index may be getting a boost from mega-shows.

If your expo has hit a glass ceiling, these factors may be to blame:

Buying has changed

Procurement practices that reduce the number of preferred suppliers, coupled with buyers doing more online research, have reduced the amount of tire kicking.

Exhibitors need less space

Instead of displaying physical products, companies are doing more digital demonstrations.

Exhibit ROI is difficult to measure

Other digital-marketing alternatives provide quantifiable metrics. Face-to-face value can be measured, but its real value is more of a gut feeling.

In my opinion, the two primary factors contributing to healthy exhibitions are anchor-exhibitor performance and exhibit-company retention. Here are four tactics for protecting and potentially growing your show floor.

Conduct advance on-site booth sales for your next event

A growing trend for show organizers is to presell their top 20 or so anchor companies 13 to 14 months out. This further accelerates on-site booth sales and allows you to invest more time in selling new exhibitors.

Adjust your priority-points system to better influence behavior/spend

We recommend that your priority-points system go back for only the past three consecutive years. Instead of earning points on booth-space purchases only, be sure to award points for sponsorship and promotional-opportunity spend. It’s a huge advantage for exhibitors to earn the privilege to choose their location before their biggest competitor at any decent show. 

Increase the islands

A show with only 10ˇ × 10ˇ or inline booths is pretty unimpressive. Consider developing concepts to get some 20ˇ × 20ˇ islands on the show floor. We’ve seen some organizers charge a lower bulk-space rate for displaying large pieces of equipment, conducting demonstrations, or creating private hospitality or deal-making spaces.

Deliver on audience

Ask each exhibitor to provide you with the top 10 clients or prospects that they’d like to see on the show floor. Develop attendee-acquisition campaigns to attract them. Report back to each exhibitor on your efforts and success.

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.