The Other Two Legs
by Michael R. Hough
Some show managers define success as getting enough people to
pre register for their show. But the show cannot be called a success
unless the exhibitors generate a sufficient number of quality
leads. The best shows gladly assume the responsibility for helping
make this happen.
To do this, these two other legs of the triad must happen:
- The pre registrant actually shows up (or verifies).
- The verified attendee spends sufficient time on the exhibit
Minimizing No Shows
The average no-show factor for exhibits-only pre registrants
is 50%, which is appalling. The excuses for not being there include
"did not have time" or "forgot", but in reality they were not
sufficiently motivated to come to the show.
You must take proactive steps to increase your verification rate.
First, don't assume that a soft registration (such as a business
reply card) is a real registration. Consider this an inquiry until
the person registers the normal way.
Next, implement a separate promotion plan designed to convince,
for example, widget production engineer Jane Doe, to actually
leave her office in Dallas and fly to your show in Chicago. Here
are some suggestions:
- Continually communicate with Jane from the time she registers
– via regular mail and e-mail. Keep reinforcing what benefits
she will get by coming to the show.
- Bribe Jane by offering her something she really wants but
can get only if she shows up. For example, this could be a free
copy of the newly updated version of the association’s Manual
of Widget Production.
- Create a compelling and timely event at the last minute such
as "Widget E-Business: Hype or Reality?" Promote this massively
to all pre registrants via e-mail and telemarketing.
Keep after Jane right up to the very end, by sending her an e-mail
(or fax) at 3:00 p.m. on opening day. This message says, "Jane,
we missed you today and hope you will be with us tomorrow when
the following is happening…." Tie your database to the on-site
registration/verification system so only first day no-shows get
Getting Them to the Floor
Make this a part of your total promotion plan right from the
beginning. Apply the creative juices of the entire show team.
- Set aside exclusive show hours when nothing else is
happening, such as 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. But do not choose
unpopular off hours, such as 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.
- Put lots of events on the floor, such as free conference sessions,
product demonstrations, food functions (free lunch, reception)
interactive games (such as golf or a treasure hunt), book signings,
poster sessions, etc. Be sure these are spread around to get
people to all areas of the floor.
- Another popular event is a "shoot out" that compares several
competing products in a neutral setting. Have a non-partisan
group run this (not show management).
- Encourage exhibitors to do "attracting" things (such as a
car raffle) and then promote these efforts through official
channels (Show Daily, lobby signs, etc.).
- Enlist the conference speakers to tout what is on the floor.
For example, a speaker could say, "I encourage you to visit
Exhibitors A, B, and C who are all showing an application of
what I just discussed."
Finally, though being on the floor should be "fun", be sure you
also emphasize that it is an important learning opportunity. Attendees
should understand that the exhibit is a vital part of the total
value of being at the show.