February 3, 2020
Are exhibitor fees still a sustainable source of non-dues revenue? Nowadays, buyers rely on the web instead of salespeople for information about products and services they’re considering. Trade shows are just one of many options companies consider when developing marketing budgets. How do you ensure your event is still worth their investment in exhibiting, staff, and travel expenses?
Your relationship with exhibitors begins with selling them a booth. But a successful relationship depends upon you helping these revenue partners obtain the ROI they seek:
Associations are experimenting with new ways of helping exhibitors achieve these goals. If you follow in their footsteps, you’ll retain more exhibitors, enjoy a closer relationship with them, and provide a better attendee experience.
Don’t assume exhibitors know what they’re doing. Even expo hall veterans benefit from taking a new look at old practices. Plus, chances are, many booth staff at your show are inexperienced or new to your niche.
Share resources on your website that help exhibitors plan and prepare for their show experience. The American Academy of Ophthalmology provides budgeting and cost control tools, plus strategic planning exercises with suggested view-by dates. Their exhibitor site includes articles and on-demand webinars accompanied by workbooks on topics such as social media, booth staff skills, and driving booth traffic. They also require new exhibitors to attend a web briefing presented by a tradeshow productivity consultant.
On your exhibitor web page, include mandatory or optional video tutorials on using the event technology you provide to help exhibitors collect and manage leads, check in booth visitors, text attendees, and send out polls and surveys.
Help exhibitors get to know your attendees—however, you must do this while being sensitive to attendee privacy. Don’t share personal data unless the attendee gives you permission through an opt-in. What you can do is request valuable information in required fields on the registration form, such as:
Perhaps even more valuable is the information you share with exhibitors about what attendees do during the show, for example, how long they dwell within their booth, who checked in for specific interactions in the booth such as demos or educational sessions, and who visited their page or downloaded their materials on the post-event microsite (aka digital memory bank).
Just like new members, new exhibitors will have a better experience with your association if you provide an onboarding experience that shows them how to achieve their goals. Send out an automated email campaign to new exhibitors that helps them prepare for the show.
Describe the different segments of your attendee audience. Tell them how this audience and their purchasing patterns may differ from other professions and industries. Explain what attendees may value or want to know about prospective industry partners.
Introduce them to your event as well. Provide a list of last year’s popular session topics or exhibits. Describe event customs and traditions as well as highlights of last year’s show—social and educational experiences, and any other information a first-timer would find useful. Suggest ways they can better understand this audience and add value to the attendee experience.
Many associations hire a trade show consultancy to review booths and provide exhibitors with a report assessing their booth, staff, and interactions. At the end of the first day, present best-of-show awards to the top-scoring booths in different categories.
Since attendees would rather be educated than sold to, offer exhibitors the chance to pay for the privilege of providing education on the show floor. The American Thoracic Society (ATS) promotes several types of exhibitor-led programs in their exhibit hall:
Include these events in your app’s agenda. You could also charge an extra fee to send out an app reminder right before the event begins. Encourage exhibitors to use the event technology you provide to check in attendees to their show floor and booth sessions so you can share the list with them after the show.
Every exhibitor hopes they’ll have the chance to talk to and make a good impression with purchasing decision-makers. But, too often the people they want to meet—the C-suite and other decision-makers—aren’t at your show.
Consider one of these options for bringing exhibitors and buyers together.
Facilitate meetings between exhibitor and buyers.
Exhibitors at PCBC, a trade show and conference organized by the California Building Industry Association, participate at no cost in the Key Buyer’s Club. They request and schedule 20-minute meetings with buyers—and buyers do the same. Company buyers are given complimentary show passes since the private meetings rooms are on the show floor.
Arrange meetings for exhibitors who want to pay for a VIP experience.
PCBC’s invitation-only National Buyers Circle takes place the day before the show opens. Exhibitors pay four figures to participate. PCBC schedules 15-minute meetings for each exhibitor to meet the buyer teams from 16 large member companies. Meals and snacks are provided throughout the day as well as a reception at the end of the day.
Find out if your members and industry partners would be interested in opportunities like these. An exhibitor advisory group, composed of both exhibitors and buyers, can make recommendations for improving the trade show experience.
As the trade show host, you can facilitate education and relationships, both on and off the show floor. If you give exhibitors and attendees the value they seek, your event will be on their schedules for years to come.
Find out more about event technology, like our Exhibitor Experience solution, that can help you provide additional value to your exhibitors.