Jill Hawkins, director of Aniseed PR, asks if there might be a more sophisticated way to measure a show’s success.
If a B2B exhibition has one more visitor than last year it’s deemed a success, but one less and it’s an abject failure. Why do we measure success this way when it’s so easy to manipulate the numbers?
I’m sure there are many tricks employed by unscrupulous organisers. One exhibition that I worked on bussed their entire workforce to the show to get visitor numbers up, and another canvassed universities and encouraged lots of students to come (all registered under standard ‘buyer’ badges).
Business events don’t tend to vet attendees, or in the rare case that they do, it’s only a few questions and nothing is actually verified. This means that there are no real barriers to the quantity going up, even though the quality may be a little questionable.
Another trick I see all the time is the combination of visitor and exhibitor figures into ‘total attendance’. Countless exhibitions proudly state pre-event that exhibitor numbers are up (and so it logically follows that there is an increase in exhibitor personnel) and then crow about the blindingly obvious increase in total attendance post event. The phrase ‘no sh*t Sherlock’ springs to mind. And if a show isn’t audited it could all be a load of made up nonsense anyway…
In a way I can’t blame organisers for doing this, because the industry puts so much importance on year-on-year growth. The press is also to blame (sorry EN…). The obligatory ‘didn’t we do well’ post-show press release has to declare a positive message.
Exhibitions are about making business contacts and lasting relationships, so why do we measure their worth directly after the show when we still don’t know their full impact?
An exhibitor couldn’t possibly get to meet all of the visitors, so why are they so bothered? I’ve seen companies have amazing shows in quiet exhibition halls and conversely not do so well when it’s been crowded; so much of the experience is dependent on their own sales and marketing tactics. But if an exhibitor doesn’t have a great show and visitor numbers are down, then the exhibitor will be quick to blame their shortcomings on the low numbers.
Measuring meetings held at a show is one way of tracking success, but even then, those are only the meetings held via the show’s appointment setting tools, and not the many, many other meetings that take place. But what if those meetings led to nothing?
We often moan that exhibitions aren’t seen as a serious marketing method, but surely it’s up to us to prove it? There are a few tools out there to help exhibitors measure the effectiveness of their presence, but how do organisers measure overall success?
We don’t see any other form of marketing measured in such a basic way. Advertising and digital marketing are both measured using far more complex metrics that fully calculate the ROI of the campaign. They don’t just focus on the numbers reached, but the engagement, reactions and the subsequent purchases of customers.
Surely, we should be able to measure success in a more sophisticated way? I’d love to hear more from organisers who have.