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Benchmarks by the Numbers: The Challenge of Attendance Growth

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Skip Cox
Skip Cox

SVP, Research and Measurement


Six stats to inform your attendee marketing spend

As marketers, it’s important to evaluate our brand experiences using key benchmarks and to review relevant metrics that affect our industry. Casing the marketplace for relevant data empowers our decisions and reminds us we’re not alone in our challenges. When it comes to growing attendance at our events, for example, we’re all in the same attendance-seeking boat. Per the Freeman Research & Measurement team, the number one challenge facing 57 percent of event organizer executives is “growing attendance,” followed by “proving exhibitor ROI” (39 percent of executives)*. It makes sense that attendance and ROI top the list, as returns often correlate to the number and quality of attendees.

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Growth in exhibit spaces complicates the issue

While more events expand by increasing exhibitors (68 percent) and exhibit space (64 percent), attendance can fall behind (58 percent). A dense show floor may stifle the experience for attendees, making it harder to navigate the space and find what they seek. On the flipside, exhibitors (particularly smaller ones) feel the rub when floor density is low as they try to compete effectively for attendees’ time and attention. These facts further cloud the perception of ROI.

Invest in your audiences

How much of your event budget are you investing in targeted, pre-show promotion? Are you comparing costs between events? Of the event professionals surveyed*, only 53 percent increased their attendee marketing spend in 2016 compared to their previous show.

So, what should you be spending on attendee promotion? Our findings reveal that the average percentage of event budget spent on attendee marketing (excludes internal staff costs) is 14 percent. **

Evaluating and understanding attendee promotion investments can make a big difference. But to truly make a significant impact on growing attendance, you need to take several critical steps including fully understanding your current and potential audience, developing personalized strategies that accommodate their needs, and delivering valuable experiences they can’t get anywhere else.

Number Surveyed:

*Based on 2016 Exhibition & Convention Executive Forum Pulse study conducted of 233 executives of association and independent organizers by the Freeman Research & Measurement Team (formerly ESI) in collaboration with Lippman Connects.

**Based on 2016 Benchmarks & Trends in Attendee Acquisition of 160 event organizers responsible for attendee marketing by the Freeman Research & Measurement Team (formerly ESI) in collaboration with Lippman Connects.

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