The first edition of The Profitable Trade Show by Michael Hough ...
is now sold out. But we are working on the next edition which we hope to publish in late 2004. Meanwhile, this web site provides practical, "how-to" information for all who produce face to face events such as exhibitions, trade shows and conferences.

Profit Tips
White Papers
Large Show Roundtable

Also Available

White Papers Index

W1 - All is Not Well

W2 - Sample of a Memo to Content Partners

W3 - Ten Commandments for Speakers

W4 - 100 Tips in 75 Minutes

W5 - All About E-Newsletters

W6 - The Other Two Legs

W7 - Five Mistakes Associations Make

W8 - 15 Attendance Promotion Tips

W9 - Ten Questions to Ask When Considering a Launch

W10 - 15 Cost-Saving Tips

W11 - 15 E-Marketing Tips

W12 - Strategic Review of a Show

W13 - Launching a New Event

W14 - Avoiding Attrition Penalties

W15 - The Case Against Audits

W16 - Co-location for Fun and Profit

W17 - Improving the Association Show

W18 - International Attendance Promotion

W19 - Helping International Visitors Obtain Visas

W20 - Fixing the Machine

Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum

Large Show Roundtable


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:

  1. The pre registrant actually shows up (or verifies).
  2. The verified attendee spends sufficient time on the exhibit floor.

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 this message.

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. Some thoughts:

  • 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.