The Penalty of Not Knowing Your Exhibitors

I know of a company which wanted to launch an event in a crowded market. Now of course to have a successful show you need to have attendees and visitors. For a profitable show however, you also need to have enough sponsor and exhibitor revenue, ie exhibitors on the floor. This is because the revenue you get from an exhibitor is many times more than a single attendee. So therefore to make money on a show, you need to be able to sell exhibitors.

In launching a show, you need to have a good idea which of the companies in the market will sign up for your show and for roughly how much they will pay, so that you can make an educated guess as to whether will at least break even in year one, given your expected costs.

In a crowded market, no exhibitor is looking for another show to do just because one pops up. They don’t have extra budget just because you came along. Therefore, in launching a show you have to take exhibitors from your current competition, and enough of them not to ‘take a bath’ on the show and lose money.

How do you do this? Well if you have done your research before you launch and you can get the major companies in the market to take your call, then you might find out which of your competitors have good exhibitor relationships and which competitors are weak in this area, in addition to how all of the competitive events are faring.

It’s my opinion that if you want to launch a new show, you have to do what it takes to kill a competitor (of course take actions which are legal, moral and ethical). This usually means you need to know you can get the audience (read decision makers) and that you can make the money after all the bills are paid. I like to make at least a 25% margin in the first year of a show, so it means that I need to sharpen my pencil to make sure a client really has the grit the resources and knowledge to kill a competitor.

The reaction to your new event entry by your market competitors is to try and kill you before you can get traction. The battle is therefore where the money is, so you have to make every effort to get enough of the top companies on your side as quickly as possible.

Back to the company I mentioned, although they did some amount of pre-launch homework and successfully started the show and made a 21% margin in year one. However, their interest, attention and care of their main sponsors waned as years went by-in other words they took the customers for granted. The exhibitor revenue sank in year four leading to a loss and end of the show. A huge waste, considering the effort expended.

The lesson? Make sure you know your exhibitors intimately and establish a solid bond with all of your major ones (listen and act upon their feedback!), so you don’t have your own show killed by a competitor, new or old.

Keeping Your Head When All Else is Crumbling

One of the things that really has helped me in life is keeping calm when all around is going wrong. This is especially helpful at events where I must solve problems in real time and it’s not always evident that there’s a solution readily available. I have seen a real difference between those times when my response has reflected panic versus those when I remained calm. A panicked reaction is not conducive to a positive result. Frequently your clients depend on you, as the expert, to be the one who is calm and provide the assurance that “Everything will be fine!”

I just attended a six-day show (i.e. one with lots of moving parts) where the staff was calm and collected on the outside. But on the inside? Probably not so much. Though it’s likely that there were lots of minor things going wrong, you couldn’t tell from either their actions or their demeanor.

One way I have found to master this kind of situation is eliminate the extraneous elements and focus on the goal. In a crisis, you need to be able to appraise the circumstances, receive input from others, and determine an immediate path of action. Periphery details are distractions; I believe that keeping your focus depends on ridding your mind of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

From Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

I’ve given you the beginning and ending lines, but you can find the entire poem at the link below: 


To keep your head is just another skill that will help you rise above your competition. 

Idiot Marketing Messages

Here are some examples of what I consider to be idiot marketing messages:


  • Last chance to sign up is Friday!
  • Hours left to save – register today!
  • Early bird pricing extended!
  • High-level content at ABC Conference!
  • Elite Expertise at XYZ Summit!
  • Breaking News: XYZ to keynote Acme Conference


You may ask why I characterize them as idiotic. Perhaps you’re thinking “I use that approach in my email subject lines all the time!” However, I’d argue that these messages are for situations where you know that people are interested in attending your event. In those circumstances a price reduction, some kind of promotion, or additional information on an event’s content may be what’s going to get them to register. But otherwise this kind of marketing is clueless.


The thing that always gets me about poor marketing tactics is when the presumed ‘buyer path’ is based on faulty assumptions, the biggest of which is that the recipient of your messaging actually cares about what you’re writing or already is a raving fan.


Given that most events are not considered to be indispensable, to assume a prior year’s attendee is predisposed to return, if given the right incentive or information, could be a mistake. Was the event valuable for them or memorable in some way? Or was it just an interruption of their daily business and a waste of time and money? How do you know?


If someone hasn’t been convinced of the value of your event – or worse, doesn’t pay attention to your marketing and therefore doesn’t know what you are talking about – do you think they’ll care that the early bird discount ends on Friday or some other marketing offer or further meaningless information? If you are not segmenting your lists and tailoring your message for your key personas, then I’d argue you are guilty of lazy marketing. You haven’t put in the time to know whether a price incentive is the right offer to the right person at the right time then you’re just guessing. I am also suggesting that an early bird deadline be based on the time that you have found to be the right time for the prospect, not necessarily the date you’ve arbitrarily picked.


You should be able to segment your past attendees into 4-5 main categories. Then you should ensure you have a buyer path for each category, a path that is not based on assumptions but rather is grounded in data, like past history, surveys, conversations with prospects, etc..


Assuming you have the metrics to indicate that the members of a segment are at a point in the buyer path when they’re ready to sign up, the messages I referenced as idiotic might have an impact. If you are crafting the same message for everyone- get ready for the marketing panic I referenced in my last article though……



Prospects are getting smarter. They’ll avoid you and your messages unless you also are smart about them and know how to build value and trust so they covert into attendees.