Want Exhibitors to Be More Successful? Help Them Manage Expectations

Today features a guest post by Christine Christman

“Christine has worked in the trade show industry since 1982.  She recently created the NowWhat? eGuide for Trade Show Exhibitors and also works as content producer for the Exhibitor eTrak online seminars and blog.  You can contact her at christine@tradeshowexhibitor.net.

“They promoted 5,000 attendees at that show but we only got 100 leads.  Where was everyone?”

What’s the problem here?  I’ve been thinking about this lately while observing #expochats, #eventprofs and exhibitor groups on LinkedIn.  Show producers are talking to show producers.  Exhibitors are talking to exhibitors.  But I am wondering, where are the exhibitors and show producers talking to each other.  Is there an mutually isolating nature about these two positions?

Show producers say that exhibitors don’t plan, execute and follow-up very well, hence their performance at a show lags behind their potential.

Exhibitors say that show producers over-promise and under-perform, providing attendee figures that are embellished at best and inflated at worst.

I’ve also been wondering, what’s missing here?  What’s the missing piece that’s keeping these two sides from finding a solution.

I think one important piece is a term coined by Exhibit Surveys many years ago:


Somewhere in the middle is the most common reality….that there is ALWAYS going to be a rather significant difference between a show’s total attendees and the number of those attendees who are not only interested in the products and services an exhibitor has on display, but also motivated to get to that exhibit.

This a key piece of information that event producers can use to manage exhibitor expectations, and also that exhibitors can use to manage expectations within their company.

I get the problem.  I mean, show producers don’t what to have to say “Hey, we are so excited about the show this year…our registration is up and it looks like we’ll have about 5,000 attendees (though we know only a small fraction will actually visit your exhibit…)”

But it’s important information.  Why?  Because that number will define how they judge your performance as a show producer.  If they expected 5,000 people through their exhibit and only see 400, where do you suppose they’ll start asking questions?

And exhibitors don’t want to have to say “we’re really excited about the show.  They say attendance is up this year, they’re expecting about 5,000 (though we’ll realistically only see about 400 of those people in our exhibit.)”  But think about it.  Four hundred would be pretty good.  If the show is open for 24 hours over three days, you’ll see 16 or 17 visitors in an hour.  That’s something to aim for.  That’s something to build measurable goals around.

So, for exhibitors, managing expectations among internal stakeholders (sales and marketing management, exhibit staff) drives everything from attitude to allocation.  Potential audience is key.

If you are not familiar with the resources available for calculating potential audience at a trade show, here’s two:

Exhibit Surveys ROI Toolkit

Now What? eGuide Video and Worksheet on Calculating Potential Audience (full disclosure, this is my site).

Image by Ravages

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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