by Matt Alderton | December 19, 2012
As the cost of exhibiting at trade shows rises, exhibitor participation falls. In the face of escalating price tags, therefore, show organizers must act in order to ensure exhibitions' long-term viability as a marketing medium, according to the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA), which has released a new study on the costs of exhibiting.

Published earlier this month in a presentation titled "Enhancing Exhibitor Value Enables Show Growth," the research shows that over 30 percent of their costs are unknown when exhibitors sign their booth space contract. Because exhibitors are competing with other marketing channels for funds, and are being perpetually challenged by procurement departments to cut costs, that's a problem, according to E2MA, which says exhibitors are responding by reducing exhibit size, canceling participation and going instead to offsite proprietary events.

The "rate of increase ... cannot continue," the association asserts in its presentation.

To keep costs in check, E2MA says trade show organizers must act on behalf of exhibitors, as 67 percent of exhibitors' costs — including exhibit space (32 percent), installation and dismantle labor (19 percent), and drayage (16 percent) — are negotiated by show organizers.

In response to its findings, E2MA has recommended a course of action that's based on full disclosure and better control of costs. For instance, it advocates "game changers" such as bringing general contracting in house and eliminating exclusive show services, as well as the following "simple" solutions:

• Disclosing all show management rebates and discounts to exhibitors;
• Understanding what exhibitors are paying, identifying pain points and negotiating on their behalf;
• Providing all costs up front in the exhibitor prospectus;
• Simplifying show rates and rules; and
• Eliminating the practice of discounting exclusive services and combining with other non-exclusive services.

Concluded E2MA in a news release, "Exhibit and event marketers need to gain control of their budgets and obtain insight about the total cost of event participation to make decisions about which events can provide a sufficient ROI to justify their participation."

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