What If Trade Show Organizers Were Not Selling Square Meters And Tickets Anymore?

I’m Julien Bouvier, the Director of Event Marketing at Swapcard, and I’m here to ask you an important question about the future of trade shows. The title of this post is a dead giveaway but I’ll repeat myself anyway: What if trade show organizers were not selling square meters and tickets anymore?

For as long as most of us can remember, trade shows have made money in two ways: selling square meters to exhibitors and tickets to attendees. 

But, is this business model feasible now?

With onsite exhibitor sales no longer proportional to booth sizes, and corporations hesitant to send their employees due to budget and eco-conscience concerns, maybe it’s time for a change.

A new model where exhibitors pay proportionally for lead generation capabilities and attendees pay for time spent at the event instead of a fixed-price ticket. 

In this model, onsite geolocation and beacons are affordable, and attendees pay a price per minute of attendance that varies according to the event zone. For example, attendance is free in the exhibit halls, a couple of dollars per minute in auditoriums, and 10-12 dollars per minute in the VIP lounge. 

You’re able to route traffic from one section of your event to another by offering temporary discounts on specific zones’ per-minute costs. You also have access to an instant heat map of your audience traffic on the venue floor, giving you access to data that allows you to analyze attendee behavior in-real time. Which in turn enables you to customize your offering and event experiences to attendee needs.

This model could work for both onsite and virtual event types, having a positive effect on virtual attendees’ engagement. After all, we all want to make the most out of the money we pay, so trust me when I say that virtual attendees won’t be checking their inboxes while attending your event.

Of course, as an organizer, you still want to predict attendance volume, and that's still possible. Attendees could purchase "minute bundle packages" or even better, a monthly subscription that gives them access to exclusive content, bonus zones, and extra minutes. It's a new way to ensure a consistent revenue stream that is less affected by geopolitical and economic instability.

The event industry is slowly switching from hybrid to asynchronous models. Many industries before us got Uberized. Are we next? Who will take the first step? Time will tell!

For more such hot takes on up-and-coming trends in the trade show industry, sign up for our Expo Experts Explain series where we interview leading industry experts to keep you ahead of the curve. 

Julien Bouvier
Julien Bouvier

Director of Event Marketing

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