Most mature industries, at one time or another, will go through periods of change, both in their product and service categories, and in their personnel. These changes can have significant impact on the show or shows that serve the industry, and on your show performance. If a show is not prepared for these industry cycles, it may lose attendees, and then exhibitors. What can you do when your audience is shifting? These ideas will help you keep your program at maximum performance:
Evaluate your program annually: Leadership and sales teams likely have the latest business intelligence regarding changing conditions within an industry. Reviewing your entire trade show program with them annually will help to identify any participation issues; especially for events that resulted in lower performance the year prior. It also may be helpful to engage in annual Portfolio Planning with a strategic services provider. They use predictive modeling and historical results to ensure you are investing the appropriate amount in the right shows relative to stated objectives and expected outcomes. Portfolio Planning may also help discover new events or growing events that are worth adding to your program.
Engage with show management: One of the best ways to stay ahead of show adjustments is to get involved with exhibitor advisory committees or other opportunities for direct engagement with show management. These sessions should be treated as more than just meetings to talk about cost. They are a chance to speak frankly about the health of the industry and discuss ways for the show and exhibitors to work together to address any issues. Enquire about the attendee demographics and demand honest answers or a third-party audit. Show organizers who obfuscate their attendee data don’t deserve your marketing dollars.
Poll your customer base: If your customers are looking elsewhere for product and service information, your prospects will be too. Take time to open a dialogue with trusted partners and ask them what websites they are visiting, magazines they are reading, and what shows they are attending. If their primary sources aren’t matching your advertising efforts or event program, you aren’t effectively reaching your key audience. Align your marketing investments to the media your targets trust for their business intelligence.
Many organizations will be facing tough decisions in upcoming years, as some industries go through the painful transition to serving a new generation of participants. However, as adaptations progress, it often results in a stronger event and a community better at connecting its constituents.