The price is right

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One of the big differences between trade and consumer shows is where each gets its funding from. While trade shows rely on stand space for the bulk of their revenue, consumer shows tend to charge for tickets, thus capitalising on visitor numbers. So why don’t trade show organisers charge for tickets? And what should an organiser consider when deciding on what price – if any – they should charge for entry? According to consultancy group AMR International director John Pringle, trade events make 85 per cent of their revenue on stand space, with the remainder coming from sponsorship and other minor sources.   “The logic is the last thing you want to do is impose a price on visitors, which diminishes the value to the stand holders,” Pringle said. “However, one of the questions we have been asked is whether that model is set in stone. Is it mad to start imposing prices on tickets? After all, if you multiply visitor numbers by a small amount it quickly becomes a lot of money. “If anything organisers should be going the other way, where more cost needs to go towards marketing, features and education in order to bring the visitors in. The last thing you want to do is create a barrier for visitors.” Ticketing conditions If you are considering a ticket price, Centaur Exhibitions marketing director Nolan O’Connor said elements worth debating include location, size, exhibitor numbers and what other value there is for visitors in terms of entertainment or education. He added some organising companies, perhaps more cynically, start with a ticket revenue target and divide that by the number of expected visitors. “Sometimes trade shows charge people onsite to encourage people to pre-register,” O’Connor said. “The education programme and the education you will get from exhibitors who have specialised product knowledge should be the reason to come, not because it’s free.” O’Connor gives the example of Autosport International, a show he used to be involved with, as an alternative model of a trade show that does charge. “It has two trade days and two consumer days. It stops members of the public trying to source a cheaper ticket by coming on a trade day,” he said. “There’s always going to be that temptation for extra revenue but the problem is that you are competing with other exhibitions and online media, much of which is free. If the world’s media all start to move over to a paid approach then our approach may start to change but I don’t think we organisers have a strong enough case because there’s a lot of other free content out there.” O'Connor added it was an organiser's duty to get as many qualified visitors in to shows as possible. According to event director for the National Home Improvement Show, Michael Seaman, ticket price can act as a quality filter for visitors. “If the visitor is willing to pay for an experience, they perceive it’s of more value,” he said. “If you get people coming through the door who haven’t paid you might not get the people you want.” But Seaman warned a common mistake is not consulting the target audience before deciding ticket price. “When we look at ticket price we do market research about what the audience is willing to pay,” he added. Whatever the price of your show ticket, it’s ultimately your responsibility to deliver a visitor experience worthy of it. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Key tips: Charging trade visitors at the gate may encourage people to pre-register. Charging all visitors may ensure attendance of pre-registered visitors. It may be harder for customers to justify time out of the office for a paid-for event. Target market-leading exhibitors and keep them in your sights while determining prices. Consult your target audience before deciding prices. Use ticket price to ensure the best audience. Base prices on educational and/or entertainment value of the event as well as size. Consider location: A regional show should be cheaper than one in the city. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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