Association Congress

Monday, 11 April 2011

10 tips when deciding to add an exhibition to a conference

What should organisations be considering when they are planning to add an exhibition to a conference is a question that continually comes up when I do my consultancy. So I thought it seems like a very good blog topic this week.

Bolting on an exhibition to a well established conference can be a fantastic way of adding extra revenue to your bottom line as well as allowing your delegates to make the most out of their time at your event. From your financial perspective and from you delegates point of view it might appear a no brainer.

However adding exhibitions should be a strategic as well as a tactical decision. It is a sound commercial strategy for your events not to rely too heavily on one source of income, so adding an exhibition, with the revenue that generates, ticks the strategic box. But with every event it will be a tactical decision too. I’ve listed a few general principles that I always consider when looking to bolt on an exhibition:

  1. If you’ve had a couple of stands at your events in the past it’s likely that you have a good opportunity to add an exhibition. Exhibitions are scalable; where one exhibitor comes more should follow
  2. To have a decent size exhibition (10+ stands and £40K+ revenue) it’s likely that you will need an attendance of 150+ per day
  3. Make sure the numbers stack up. If your new exhibition hall adds substantially to the cost base how will it affect the bottom line?
  4. Specialist rather than general conference subjects lend themselves better to small to medium sized exhibitions
  5. Realise that selling is a particular skill and may not be one that your general events staff possess
  6. Think about outsourcing this very particular skill
  7. Never see you exhibition as a ‘necessary evil’ but embrace it and don’t try and hide the fact you have an exhibition from your delegates
  8. Having an exhibition should impact your conference. If it doesn’t you’ve probably not given it enough importance. How your exhibitors interact with delegates, the location of lunch and refreshments and the timings of the day have to reflect your new stakeholders.
  9. Consider opening up some slots on your programme to exhibitors. If they are wise and well briefed they can add to the delegates learning on the day.
  10. Like any event there is a risk changing a successful event so do your research!

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