06 Nov 2015

Industry’s Exhibitor Retention Rate and Space Sales Solid in 2015

Hil Anderson, Senior Editor

Washington, DC – Exhibitors by and large remained loyal to trade shows and did not cut back on booth space, according to a new survey that showed retention rates for both exhibiting companies and exhibit space sales were greater than 75% this year.

The report on 2015 Benchmarks & Trends in Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales pegged the retention rate of exhibitors from year to year at 76% while the retention rate of exhibit space sold was an impressive 78%. In addition, 44% of first-time exhibitors were satisfied enough to sign on for the next edition of their respective events.

The survey included input from 206 respondents involved in exhibit and sponsorship sales, compared to 109 in 2014. The project was a joint effort of Exhibit Surveys, Lippman Connects and Trade Show Executive (TSE). “We are very pleased with the survey response this year,” said Jonathan “Skip” Cox, CEO and president of Exhibit Surveys. “The larger response, which was due in large part to the efforts of TSE, has given us the ability to provide additional insights and analyses of various segments.”  Gudea commended Lippman Connects and Exhibit Surveys for the quality of their research, from inception to interpretation. “The  2015 Benchmarks & Trends in Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales report has uncovered unique and timely new insights for show organizers to make informed decisions for 2016.”

The responses created an upbeat picture of an industry in which 63% of organizers reported an increase in exhibit space sales while the average price per square foot -- $30.72 this year – ticked up 5% since 2014. “The reasons given this year were that it was mainly due to improvements in the overall economy as well as in the industry sector represented by their event,” the report said.

The state of the overall economy and soft attendance were cited by the 40% of shows that declined or held steady.

Variables between Independents, Associations

Exhibit sales remain the keystone of trade show revenues. The survey found that booths created 62% of total event revenue, with sponsorship sales chipping in 11%. Registration for educational programs accounted for 19% of total show revenues and attendee registration 3%.

Associations generated 60% of show revenues from exhibit sales compared to 68% for independent organizers. Associations took in 20% of their revenues from educational sessions compared to 14% for independents.

More independent organizers raised the price of exhibit space in 2015. The survey found that 59% of independents boosted their price by an average of 6.2%. That contrasted with the more conservative associations. Only 42% increased their prices with the hikes averaging 4.5%.

Not an Easy Sell

Selling exhibit space is becoming a tougher task. The economy may be on the upswing, but an ongoing rash of mergers and corporate consolidations has resulted in fewer prospective exhibitors and static attendance in some cases. This year’s TSE Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics has seen attendance growth chugging along at around 2%.  Survey respondents cited concerns among exhibitors about logistical costs. “Also increasing this year were companies that wanted access to an event’s attendees, but were not interested in exhibiting,” the report said.

The most common theme among the obstacles to exhibit sales was getting exhibitors to pull the trigger in a timely fashion; both large and small exhibitors often wait until the last minute to commit. There was also a new trend of large exhibitors allowing smaller firms to sublet space within their booths.

The most effective tool for exhibit sales representatives from 90% of the organizers surveyed was a profile of their attendees. Roughly half of the respondents considered testimonials from exhibitors, plus information on attendees’ purchasing plans, to be helpful in convincing exhibitors to sign on the dotted line.

Sponsorship sales were solid in 2014, perhaps more so than exhibit sales. Sponsorship sales were up for 62% of the respondents, compared to a 49% rate the previous year. The most common factor in the increase was that there were more sponsorship opportunities to sell.  Banners and badges were again popular while digital signs and mobile apps created new spaces for logos. Educational sessions and “events within the event” were also fertile ground.


The findings in the 2015 Benchmarks & Trends in Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales were the results of an online survey conducted between September 15 and October 6, 2015. The survey was sent to organizers from the databases of TSE, Exhibit Surveys and Lippman Connects.

A total of 206 questionnaires were returned. The margin for error was plus-or-minus 7% with a 95% confidence level. The report was released in late October at Lippman Connects’ Exhibit Sales Roundtable held in Washington, DC.

Reach Skip at (732) 741-3170 or; Sam at (703) 979-4904 or; Darlene at (760) 630-9111 or