30 Jun 2014

New Research Helps Attract Meeting Attendees and Build Sales

By Sam Lippman

Every year, associations and independent organizers alike come up with new and exciting ideas to keep their events relevant. At the same time, even the most experienced professionals find sometimes they are only repeating what used to work for lack of a proven, better alternative. Enter the Exhibitor and Sponsorship Sales Metrics and Practices Study and the Attendee Acquisition Metrics and Practices Survey.

Co-created by Lippman Connects and Exhibit Surveys, these new annual research studies capture reliable data on industry-wide practices and trends. For both studies, the overwhelming majority of respondents were association professionals and event management executives. During the Attendee Acquisition Roundtable (AAR) on June 26 and the Exhibit Sales Roundtable (ESR) on July 24 at the Association Forum’s office in Chicago, Exhibit Surveys will brief participants on key findings, and attendees will receive a copy of the full report. Select findings from each study—including new sponsorship ideas and best sources for new attendee prospects—were shared in advance with FORUM.

Exhibitor and Sponsorship Sales Study Highlights

  • Exhibit space sales bring in nearly two-thirds of total revenues; sponsorships add another 12 percent.
  • The two biggest challenges to selling exhibit space today are proving return on investment to exhibitors and the perception of increased costs.
  • Among the seven most effective ways to prove exhibitor ROI, the use of attendee demographics tops the list.
  • Average revenue for events, according to the study, is $8.4 million with a 42 percent average net profit. Four out of 10 report that net profit is at least 50 percent.
  • In the opinion of three out of four organizers, lanyards, bags and other sponsored materials are the sponsorships that deliver the most value to exhibitors. Of the nine sponsorships mentioned, press office sponsorship was least significant.
  • Respondents offered 26 various “new or most unique” sponsorships offered to exhibitors. Mobile apps ranked first, followed by sponsorship of digital platforms that include exhibitor listings, videos and dedicated emails. Twitter feeds and even bathroom door clings were among other unique and new ideas gaining traction.

Attendee Acquisition Survey Highlights

  • Average attendance grew by 4 percent year-to-year, maintaining rough parity with the average 3 percent growth in net square feet of exhibit space.
  • On average, year-to-year attendee promotion spending rose 10 percent. The per-show spend ranged from $5,000 to $3.2 million, and averaged $380,000.
  • Spending per attendee ranged from a remarkably low $2.68 to $88.64, and averaged $30.70.
  • Attendee promotion now represents on average 13 percent of total event costs.
  • Half of all respondents say that identifying new attendee prospects is their largest challenge. Meeting competitive threats is much less of a concern.
  • Direct mail and email marketing each capture 20 percent of marketing budgets, but email delivers the best return on investment for 57 percent of respondents.
  • Print advertising and social media are tied for delivering the least return on investment, according to respondents. Note: It is more difficult, however, to measure ROI for print ads vs. email.
  • Two-thirds of respondents say they use Twitter and Facebook for attendee marketing; 50 percent use LinkedIn. Few track registrations through these channels.

The Attendee Acquisition Metrics and Practices Survey, released in February, “provides practical
information that can help influence strategic direction, tactical execution, and message delivery,”
says Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, president of mdg, a marketing and public relations firm
specializing in trade shows and conferences.

Stacey Price, vice president of National Trade Productions, an Alexandria, Va.-based exhibition management firm, was among the first to see the Exhibitor and Sponsorship Sales Metrics and Practices Study. “This industry-wide snapshot of sales and sponsorship practices is an invaluable tool,” Price says. “Having hard data complementsthe information from the shows we own as well as the shows we manage for clients.”

Exhibit Surveys President Skip Cox says sales and marketing functions are dynamic and staffed with people who are eager to try new strategies as well as proven techniques. “Data doesn’t reduce the value of that creativity,” he adds. “On the contrary, it focuses creative energies and resources where they are more likely to pay off in measurable success.”

Sam Lippman is president of Lippman Connects. He may be reached at

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