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editorial





 

everal years ago, a friend of mine and I decided to throw an impromptu party. We called a few friends, left a few voicemails, and spent several hours - and tons of cash - visiting grocery stores and liquor stores, prepping for what would undoubtedly be the party of the year. By the time our first guest arrived, the spread of party fare, complete with immaculate centerpieces and a fully stocked bar, was a sight to behold.

So you can imagine our disappointment when only a half dozen or so people attended. We literally had to send guests home with Tupperware containers full of fresh fruit, tapenade, and bruschetta - and we still ended up throwing out the bulk of it.

What went wrong? We had plenty of friends. And, damn it, people liked us. Problem was, we didn't promote the party. No invitations, no advance notice, and, not surprisingly, no turnout. The time and money we spent on party preparations were completely wasted. Perhaps we should have spent a little more of that time and money promoting the party in the first place.

Now what does all this have to do with you and your exhibit-marketing program? According to the fifth annual AttendTrends study, my sad little party might actually have a lot to do with the shows you choose to attend.

The study reports a direct correlation between the amount of money organizers allocate to promoting their events and actual event attendance. Among organizations that increased their marketing budgets, 64 percent reported attendance growth. This compares to attendee shrinkage for 68 percent of the organizations that decreased their marketing budgets. Similarly, of those organizations whose marketing budgets remained the same, 62 percent reported stagnant attendance rates.

Still confused about what all this has to do with you? Well, much like my failed fiesta, if show organizers aren't actively inviting attendees to the party, nobody should be surprised when they don't show up.

The more people walking the show floor, the more leads you can potentially acquire. Conversely, if attendance levels drop, you're likely to experience a drop in your lead counts and a comparable rise in your program's cost per lead. And with total attendance closely related to traffic density and the number of brand impressions you can possibly hope to generate at a show, it's a mighty critical factor. You can design, build, and install the most elaborate and expensive exhibit, develop an incredibly sensorial booth experience, and have the highest-value giveaways imaginable. But if no one registers for the show, your efforts are all in vain.

Given the economic uncertainty, plenty of paranoid show organizers will instinctively try to cut costs. But according to the aforementioned data, if they lacerate their marketing budgets, attendance will suffer. So as you evaluate new shows - or re-evaluate shows you currently attend - ask organizers what they are doing to promote their events and how those efforts compare to past campaigns. Inquire about the amount of money they devote to show promotion, and whether that's above or below past levels. In all reality, they might not tell you. But find out what you can about their efforts to deliver the quantity and quality of attendees you desire, and use that information when deciding which shows to attend and which to abandon.

As a result of my house-party snafu, I've learned not to expect a massive turnout if I haven't put an equally massive effort into inviting guests and promoting the festivities. So before you sign on the dotted line and commit yourself to pricey booth spaces and expensive sponsorships, make sure your shows' organizers are doing their part to promote the party - or you risk throwing your company's investment in the trash alongside my meat-and-cheese tray.e


Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com



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