Open the Doors for Your Exhibitors’ Success!

Topics: Associations

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Hey, association folks… as a regular sponsor and exhibitor, I want to ask you a question… are you really – really – giving your exhibitors the best opportunity to succeed at your show?

expo-hallI consider a successful show one where I am able to make connections with people who may want to use the solutions that Omnipress offers. I will gladly pay the thousands of dollars for travel, freight, booth space, badge reader rental and even carpeting if I know I will be able to share a description of our services with the people who come to your show.

Yet more and more I find barriers to being able to reach those people when I go to shows. Take opt-out lists, for example. Many shows now include a checkbox on the registration form that allows attendees to opt out of receiving information from exhibitors and sponsors. We’re all being careful about legal issues these days and making sure we respect attendees’ privacy, and a lot of the most important organizations in our industry seem to be doing this (such as ASAE, PCMA, MPI, Association Forum, etc). But when you cut off our connections to people, you eliminate the benefit I get from attending.

The simple fact is that if we exhibitors cannot market and sell to your attendees, eventually we may decide we are not going to be able to justify the price of your event. I know you’re already challenged to keep your exhibitors coming to your events – do you really want to take away more of the value we expect?

Consider these proposals for…

A better system to help your exhibitors get value from your event

1. Offer multiple registration rates for attendees

  • Lowest registration fee for attendees that accept mail and email marketing from exhibitors and sponsors. Their registration fee is $395.
  • Those who accept snail mail only = $495 (emphasizes green marketing practices)
  • Those who decline all marketing = $595 (Don’t want to play…then you gotta pay!)This pricing strategy sends a clear message to the attendee that the exhibitors and sponsors are paying for a considerable portion of the expenses while still offering them the option to opt-out… but now it has economic context.

2. Put the opt-out logistics on the exhibitors’ side

  • You could make it clear to exhibitors that the first information they send to a new contact after a conference will have clear, easy opt-out instructions. Most exhibiting companies are very respectful to our contact list, and we certainly don’t want to send out communications to people who don’t want to talk to us.

3. Charge for a trip to the exhibit hall

  • Make the exhibit hall a pay-to-enter area where attendees actually have to pay to get in. The reality is that there are solutions galore on the exhibit hall floor to make an attendee’s life better. Every problem an association may have can be solved there – why not elevate this part of events to a more honored position?

4. Help brand your exhibitors as the consultants they are

  • FREE consulting always given out to the inquiring attendee who never buys or is just gathering information. That’s part of the game! Industry events are put on for the education, and there is often as much education being delivered in a vendor booth as there is in an educational session. The beauty of the booth is that you can hire someone to do a particular thing versus having to trudge back to the office and try to implement some learning from an educational session on your own.

5. Stop mixing lunch with expo hours

  • Although we as exhibitors love a free meal just as much as the next company, free meals in the exhibit hall floor brings in “qualified eaters” versus qualified buyers. Let’s focus on ways we can connect with attendees who need our services, not just attendees who need lunch. Create blocks of time that the expo floor is open, but not associated with lunch. Some expos are so large an attendee cannot meet everyone. Having dedicated expo hall times on different days separate from lunch places value on meeting suppliers.

So, what are your ideas for bringing more value to your exhibitors? I’m all ears!

Guest Post by Paul Wehking


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January 27th, 2010Beth Ziesenis says:

Great points, Paul! Vendors are knowledgeable consultants that add value to a conference experience.

When I was the education director for an association, my colleagues were quite surprised when I organized an event with presenters I called “Vendor Educators.” I reasoned, and rightly so, that the vendors who were selling products were highly, highly educated on the hot industry topics, so why not have them share their insights? Sure, the vendors had an agenda, but the Vendor Educators had strict marching orders to make sure they shared unbiased information and didn’t promote their product.

The end result? The attendees loved it! And the vendors had a venue to show off their expertise and make some contacts. We all came out ahead by the exercise, and it proves your point about the value of vendors at an event.

Twitter: AvenueZ


January 28th, 2010Dave Lutz says:

Paul, great post! You brought up a couple interesting ideas that are worth debating for show organizers. Opting everyone in and then having the attendee and exhibitor work on opt out is interesting and could be the right solution if exhibitors would do their part. Here’s another angle:

– Most exhibitors are promoting not marketing. Often times I’m in the attendee category and see the kind of junk that is being sent out by vendors that I can never use or recommend. Exhibitors need to shoot with a laser, not with a shotgun. I’d recommend sending targeted pre-show communication to existing customers and a 2nd campaign to A & B prospects. To fix the opt in/out we need to improve relevance and get rid of some of the noise. Heck, how about having a salesperson pick up a phone and request a meeting during show hours. Marketing alone will not deliver quality traffic.

– Generally speaking, exhibitors need to do a better job of providing good info to show management for things like online booth listings, show directories, etc. More and more attendees are doing online searches to decide who they want to see (read the CEIR study on the generations a bit younger than us). When you do a search for tech companies, sometimes I get results equal to CVB’s or find out that there is no info provided. You can’t just pay and pray to get results…I know Omnipress would never do that, but your not in the majority.

Looking forward to seeing what others have to say on this topic.

Dave Lutz – @velchain
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

Twitter: velchain


February 2nd, 2010Paul Wehking says:


Amen to your points. Now we just need some show organizers at the table. Here at Omnipress we spend inordinate amounts of time scrubbing down lists we receive from show organizers removing other suppliers, job titles that don’t fit our services, incomplete information, etc. What really needs to be captured at registration time (list building time) is more granular data about the attendee and their needs. Things such as meeting size, number of room nights and meeting locations are great for CVB’s while meeting size, content delivery methods or simply “I’m interested in…” categories would go a long way to helping us laser guide the messaging. Capturing the data and using it effectively is really the message here.

Fact is, I have not booked more than 4 room nights on any one business trip of mine yet hotels call me routinely because they have me on a list they received from a show organizer. We can ALL do better than this and I’m ready to start! Thanks again Dave!

Twitter: paulwehking


February 3rd, 2010uberVU - social comments says:

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by tonyveroeven: Omnipress’ @paulwehking takes a stand! Don’t forget your conference customer, the EXHIBITOR! #eventprofs.Please comment…


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