What to Charge Exhibitors for Digital Events?

Author: Convene Editors       


Recommendations from the PCMA Catalyst community include what some organizers have found to be the sweet spot for exhibitor pricing, how to add year-round value to sponsors, and ways to get attendees to engage with exhibitors online.

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

Virtual Exhibit Booth Fees

“Like many of you, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is exploring the possibility of a virtual annual meeting,” Natalie Hinman, CMP, senior meetings and corporate relations manager for ASSH told the PCMA Catalyst community. “I’m interested to hear from anyone who is planning — or has already had — an exhibit hall as part of their virtual meeting. I know there have been threads about the success of a virtual hall, and there was one thread about prices, but the responses weren’t very specific.

“We recently did an informal survey of some of our most active exhibitors, and they suggested that 25 percent of the current face-to-face booth fees would be appropriate for a virtual meeting. We were hoping they’d say something closer to 50 percent.

“If you’ve had a virtual exhibit hall, how did you adjust your booth fees for the virtual space? As we know, the booth fee itself is a small part of an exhibitor booth investment (shipping, local labor, utilities, staff per diems, hotel and travel, furniture, etc.), and in some instances is an even smaller part of their overall meeting investment (sponsorship, advertising, industry sessions, etc.). Are those factors you considered when adjusting your fees? Any specific formulas you followed? And how did you justify the booth fee if your exhibitors questioned it?

“It may also be worth noting that our virtual annual meeting would be available for 12 months. So the virtual booths would be an enduring resource for our meeting participants. While I know the research doesn’t support this — that participation/visits post-meeting is very low — we’re working on ways to bring people back to this virtual meeting space throughout the year.

“Any feedback and insights would be greatly appreciated!”

I just had a similar conversation with an association exhibits manager, and she was in a very similar situation. That 25 percent [of face-to-face booth fees] seems to the sweet spot. What they are getting traction on is sponsorship revenues that are helping to close the budget gap.

— Roy Benear, Vice President | Exhibits + Specialty Events

To encourage learners to engage with the virtual meeting throughout the year, have you considered “dripping” content onto the platform throughout the year? Rather than posting all of the presentations at one time, post them (or host them if you use livestreaming of real-time presentations) periodically; for example, new content launches on the first Tuesday of every month. Perhaps add special guest appearances — or updates from the president — on different days and as breaking news in your industry is available. The virtual conference can supplement your newsletter and cross-market to other ASSH programs.

To promote engagement with exhibitors, you can offer a virtual scavenger hunt or bingo game. Learners have to visit with the exhibitors to secure a virtual badge or secure an answer to a question. Learners who complete the hunt/bingo game are entered into a raffle.

Or, rather than promoting it as a virtual exhibit hall, position it as a solutions center where all members can go to find resources they need to support their practices.

— Melanie Stanton, CAE, CFRE, director, programs and development, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Yes! We have talked internally and with our exhibitors about dripping content throughout the year. The exhibitors expressed an interest in this and seemed more excited about the enduring education opportunities than they did about virtual exhibit space. From a show-management perspective, I think it’s a great idea and this could be a great revenue generator. However, when I think about it from an exhibitor perspective, I question why I would pay someone (ASSH) to host a webinar or training video when I could do the same thing on my own website for free. The only value I would see in doing it through the ASSH virtual meeting is the marketing list/access to ASSH members/participants. It will be interesting to see how exhibitors respond if/when given the option and how participants will interact and engage with exhibitors.

We have briefly discussed gamification within the virtual meeting, but we need to do some more exploring to see what sort of “game” we would have, and how it would be managed.

We re-branded our exhibit hall last year to Solutions Center and all of the exhibitors are now Solutions Providers. We have a pretty robust industry session schedule, so my hope is that if we can offer these sessions in the same space as the virtual booths we’ll be able to drive traffic. Instead of directing people to another virtual theater, they would be directed to the industry session through the virtual exhibit hall. That way all industry/exhibitor content/information has one home in the virtual environment.

Thank you for your thoughts and feedback!

— Natalie Hinman, CMP, ASSH

We’ve been successful creating some virtual trade shows and expos by designing a web platform that essentially houses all the exhibitor material. Link to their website, headshot, and LinkedIn profile, [and create a space for] photos and sales documents so [attendees] know who they’re talking to. Finally, setting up an appointment calendar link that attendees can sign up with in order to talk face-to-face with the contact in the virtual booth has been the winning component with other groups we’ve worked with.

Another great “plug in” to the virtual hall is having a networking platform connected where attendees and exhibitors can interact via chat, share materials, post photos, and have one-on-one conversations more casually. This also has allowed sponsors to give away prizes or post videos and set up their own “social hours” to engage further. The platform we’re using to support this allows for planners to reward those being engaged or posting relevant material to get “coins” that they can cash in at a virtual store for things like a sponsor package, gift cards, retreats, or signed books from a keynote speaker perhaps.

— Troy Peters, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Video West, Inc.

We have had this discussion with many of our clients for creating virtual exhibit halls. A great resource for these exhibitors would be the analytics during and after the conference that will bring them value long after the exhibits are closed. We think leaving the exhibit hall open for an extended time is a great idea, by the way. They can see who viewed their booth, receive their email, view how many times [attendees] visited, etc. This information could come as less expense (no travel, no hotel, less labor) than a in-person exhibit. Something to keep in mind.

— Jules Clifford, President and CEO, Event Photography of North America (EPNAC)

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