To Charge or Not to Charge – Part 2

This past week I attended another tradeshow/expo. (I know, I spend a lot of time going to shows). This is the show I told you about a while back where we decided not to charge to attend. I really believe the same thing happened as in the past. We had over 1200 registrations, and they tell me approximately 700 people actually showed up. I truly believe that our numbers would have been closer to the truth had we charged a nominal amount as we have in the past 4 years.


There were many comments about the show and its new venue and the new show managers. Some were good, some were bad. More communication could have been done on the part of not only our association’s expo committee, but also with the shows management. More signage was the common complaint from vendors as well as attendees. In the past, there were signs from every entry way possible and additional signage all along the way to guide the attendee to the show. Instead, there were barely any signs to guide you and the convention security was no help in directing attendees to the expo. – Second, in the past, we had provided box lunches to the exhibitors. Many exhibitors came with more than one representative. In the past, we provided more than one box lunch. I heard many complaints from vendors that they only received one ticket for lunch, even when there were 3 people in the booth. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been publicized ahead of time with their vendor packets to make everyone aware that this was the case this year. 


I believe this will be a live and learn experience. I am just sad that we had this all figured out over the past few years, and then when we switch management companies, it was like starting over again. I just read a recent article in our industry magazine that said that one of the other regional Expo’s who had hired a new management company was giving them notice two years in to a three year contract.  The grass is not always greener.


 Please think twice about making a change to an event that was working well – AND consult those “who were there when it was working” –especially if you are new or weren’t a part of the event when it was working well.  Reinventing the wheel can be painful in the end. We may have saved a few dollars, but we may have also alienated exhibitors as well as attendees with such poor organization and lack of communication.

Expo –To Charge or Not

This week I attended our regional association board of directors meeting. We were discussing if we should charge members to attend our yearly Expo. Most of the board was against charging members and some of us who had been on and off the board and now on again and knew the history of why we charge members to attend still wanted to continue this practice.

So, the question I wonder is “do we really get what we pay for”? Is there value added when we pay for an event rather than have the ability to attend for free? If you don’t pay and still sign up, do you feel an obligation to attend or do you feel that if something better comes along, you don’t need to attend because you don’t have anything invested?

Personally, I feel the latter. If I don’t pay for something and I choose not to attend later, even though I have RSVP’d, what difference does it make? We did not charge for the Expo before 2005. We had 1200 people sign up each year. Many didn’t sign themselves up, but rather a secretary or the owner of the company would sign up all their sales people to attend “just in case”. Then on the days of the event we would actually have a 45% drop off rate!

In 2005, our committee instituted a $10 per person member fee to attend the Expo. Non members and same day registrants would pay more. We billed it as pay $10 and you received a free parking pass at the convention center, a free awards breakfast, free drinks and hors’doeuvres at the cocktail party and a coupon book from suppliers with thousands of dollars in savings, plus of course free education with CEU credits and the tradeshow. Because registrants actually had to pay to attend we now had qualified sales people sign up and pay and our drop off rate was less than 15%, allowing us to more accurately budget for the event.

The board members who wanted to charge for the Expo, lost. The rational was that we are going to be in a new venue from the previous years, the economy is bad and those who approved the no fee rule felt that the drop off rate wouldn’t be an issue. – The Expo is at the end of August, I will keep you posted on what actually happens.

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