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How To Mitigate Your Top Five 2022 Conference and Trade Show Risks

April 12, 2021
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  1. Financial risk. You are surely pondering your event budget, weighing the P&L uncertainty, assessing the implications of diminished audience travel budgets and corporate travel restrictions, sensing trepidation from reduced sponsor investment and ROI, and gauging the reluctance of exhibitors to go big on booth space. Each of these concerns are valid, very real, and must be addressed, but how?

    Here are three thought starters: ​first, offer a guarantee that if a defined level of performance isn’t achieved, credit will be issued for 2023 that provides an insurance policy for the funders of your event. Second, sell 2022 and 2023 together, and package your sponsorships, exhibit space, hosted-buyer offerings, and other opportunities as a two-year deal. Business partners will be more willing to bet on a two-year recovery that mitigates the uncertainty that must be addressed now as you plan for 2022. And finally, how about a pay-for-performance approach? Sell access to your trade show and conference audience at a low cost, say 50% of your 2019 rates, and if you attract 1.2 times, 1.5 times, or even 2 times the audience you are promising as the minimum, your business partners will pay more.

    Each of these ideas require financial modeling, but better to start now and get your CFO on board with the new economic pro-forma for 2022. There are good options, but they do require a new way of thinking, and they pose new risks, but the risk of assuming things will return to normal is not realistic.
  2. The risk of a new audience mindset and expectations. My experience tells me that about one-third of any population will attend an event if the circumstances are just right. So, if you have 1,000,000 people who work in the sector your association or society represents, over time 300,000 would consider attending an event, webinar, or trade show of any kind. Of that 300,000, you may on any given year attract between 1% and 10% to your event; let’s say, 3,000 to 30,000 attendees. However, today, given one-third of the population doesn’t seem to want the vaccine, one-third will soon have both shots and one-third either already had COVID or are immune, what is the mindset of your 2022 projected attendees given their desire and willingness to attend your event? We don’t know the answer, but we do know your only chance to attract pre-COVID-level audience attendance or greater is to have an event or trade show that promises to do everything they loved in the past, less of what they didn’t, and enough new features to make them say “yes” and attend regardless of the state of the world. Your only option is to make your event irresistible and make sure your marketing makes that clear to everyone. Easy to say but 100% necessary. If you want to raise the roof you have to raise the bar... for yourself and your team.
  3. The risk of fewer resources, staff limitations and internal constraints. I know how many of you are working with fewer staff, reduced budgets, tighter deadlines, and diminished capacity for reinvention, and that you are balancing the digital/in-person environment. So, if the bar is going to be higher, how, with limited resources, do you design and deliver an irresistible conference or trade show? Three options: (1) shrink-to-fit; that is, do something smaller, better, more focused, and for an audience segment that you can leverage for the event AFTER this one. Pick one segment of your audience, laser-in on what they want and need, and pull out all the stops. This approach gives you a bridge to your next event that allows you to go big; (2) hire outside help, and in the long-run this will get you there faster, so hire someone who has been where you want to go and let them show you the way; or (3) redefine what success is and have a limited educational experience and sponsor a full-on hosted buyer, hosted-learner, or hosted-conversations event that is easier to execute, much less risky, and proven to work. If you want more details on how this works let me know.
  4. Risk of not using the right technology. We all know there are hundreds of options available for hosting a digital and now omnichannel event. The tendency is to use what you know, and rinse and repeat the last tech platform that you used, because at least you know what to expect. There is a better option, however: just click here to find out more. What got you here won’t get you there, and the rapid pace of change and the massive improvements are paving the way for a much better digital-analog event future.
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  5. The risk of better sameness. Imagine a restaurant that never updated its menu, a retailer that offered last season’s fashion, an art museum that never presented a new curated collection, or an automotive company not upgrading next year’s models. In every one of these cases, the end would be near. The good news is that your next event doesn’t need to be turned on its head; it just has to be relevant after almost 18 months of “thawing” we’ve all had from what the experience was of 2019. We all want at least a new coat of paint if not a smoother, more energetic, and more useful experience if we’re going to tap into scarce travel budgets, more stringent event attendance approval processes, and the gravitational pull of stasis – just staying put. For a list of ideas for how to energize your event, check these out.


Risk is just the catalyst for us to change the way we look at what’s ahead. No pain, no change. Face these risks head-on, don’t back down, and try to enjoy the learning on the way to a very successful 2022.


Don Neal
Founder & CEO

360 Live Media
703-915-8421

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