Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Exhibit Space Revenue Growth
Reaches Four-Year High

A new survey finds that 2018 is turning out to be a banner year for both exhibit space and sponsorship revenue growth. Seventy-two percent of respondents to a survey published in the recently released 2018 Benchmarks & Trends in Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales said they saw exhibit revenue growth at their most recent event, compared to 65 percent in 2017 and 63 percent in 2016 and 2015. Sponsorship sales also are at a three-year high, with 66 percent reporting increased sponsorship revenues for their most recent event. The report was based on answers to an online survey from 164 exhibition and event organizers from the databases of Freeman, Lippman Connects and Trade Show Executive magazine.

Rising Exhibit Revenues
Respondents credited beefed-up sales efforts for much of the exhibit revenue growth — though most said they are not increasing the size of their sales forces or augmenting their exhibit sales teams with third-party resources. Also, almost half (48 percent) of respondents said they increased their price per net square foot (NSF) of exhibit space by an average of 4 percent. Seventy percent are selling their next event’s exhibit space while still on site, with 40 percent offering an average 7 percent discount for these on-site sales.

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But rising revenue doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. The 23 percent who said their exhibit revenue was static or down said the culprits were competing events and/or a lull in the industry they serve. Fifty-four percent of all respondents put proving their events’ overall value at the top of their challenge list, along with mergers and industry consolidation. Another top challenge, cited by 52 percent, was the need to grow event attendance, which is not surprising given that respondents also said attendee demographics is still the most effective metric for proving exhibitor return on investment (ROI). Proving ROI is even more important now, as 40 percent said they were having to go through an agency to sell both space and sponsorships rather than dealing directly with potential clients.

Sponsorship Opportunities and Challenges
While sponsorship revenues aren’t riding quite the same growth rocket as exhibit sales revenues, they aren’t far behind. This is due largely to a corresponding growth in the sponsorship opportunities respondents had to offer — though they also said explaining those new sponsorships was one of their top challenges, as well. About a fifth of respondents said their customers were shifting some exhibit dollars into sponsorships. Among the most popular sponsorship options were speaker slots and exclusive opportunities.

Those with flat or declining sales in this area put the blame on a lack of proper sales team efforts, along with increasing competition from digital media. Sponsorship pricing also remains a roadblock to sales growth, according to the report.

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Eighty-one percent of the respondents, all of whom are involved in exhibit and/or sponsorship sales; are association executives. Their average net attendance is 11,663; net square footage is 351,102; and total revenue is $6,302,098. They also averaged 580 exhibiting companies and 47 sponsoring companies.

For more information, contact Jeff Stanley at (732) 704-1324 or jeffrey.stanley@freeman.com. — Sue Pelletier

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