This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 4, 2002

Convention Attendance Shifting Designs

Have you noticed that there are fewer people on exhibit hall floors at conventions lately? Not surprisingly, with the big numbers of mergers and acquisitions, there's a smaller base of buyers and sellers. According to Skip Cox, President of Exhibit Surveys in Red Bank, New Jersey and Wayne Jacobs of Jacobs, Jenner & Kent in Baltimore, there's been a 30% decrease in traffic density on show floors. US companies that sent employees to an average of 4.8 events in 1995 now allow an average of only 1.6.

Due to the combination of fewer attendees and higher exhibit costs, many companies believe their return on exhibition investment has evaporated. This belief moves them to "invest" in fewer trade shows. It's an unstoppable downward spiral.

While people may spend less time in exhibit halls, they are participating in more educational sessions.

Top executives give two principal reasons for going to conferences: Networking and staying on the leading edge. The Cox and Jacobs study found that networking was the deciding factor in whether people would choose to attend a show. Savvy planners are responding with longer breaks between sessions for networking time.

Expect to see increased networking opportunities specifically designed for attendees to interact with each other when the exhibit hall is not open and no educational sessions are held. It is paradoxical that the way to take care of exhibitors is to offer attendees more time away from them. The secret will be to add more floor hours to benefit exhibitors as well. In fact, some associations have already taken the latter step.

Another interesting development is that attendees feel less compulsion to go to an event every time it is held. This fact has led to what is called "attendance churn," when companies send different attendees each year. This phenomenon results in greater difficulty attracting the highly prized "power buyer."

Some exhibitors have already chosen to put more of their limited sales and marketing dollars into private events, spending less on elaborate exhibits that have not yielded an appropriate ROI. We expect that trend to continue.


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