“What ’s the bottom line?” is an often-asked question when it comes to making decisions to run with a project or an event. Of course, when it comes to running an exhibition, the host would be foolish not to ask themselves, “What is the bottom line?” But to think of the bottom line in purely financial terms is short-sighted; what’s more, to only think of the host’s bottom line, is truly myopic. To measure the true success of an exhibition, the host needs to consider the triple bottom line: the host’s, the exhibitors’ and the visitors’. This may sound obvious, and undoubtedly most host organisations will give some consideration to needs of the exhibitors and the visitors. However, for an exhibition to be truly successful and have the potential for future growth, the host must do more than give a passing nod to the other stakeholders; rather, they need to understand their value drivers and plan the event in such a way that it provides positive returns to the triple bottom line. So how do you do it? There are many value drivers - both real and perceived - for each of the stakeholders in an exhibition. The only way that an exhibition will have provided positive returns to the triple bottom line is if the host, the exhibitors and the visitors all walk away feeling that they are better off for having attended the event. So what are some things to consider?
When planning the exhibition, it is often best to start by looking at the bottom line demands of the visitor. After all, it is the punters that will make or break your event. Invariably, all visitors are looking for a return on the time that they have invested in coming to the exhibition. They will have positive bottom line result if they come away from the event better informed and better tooled to do their job. In other words, content is king. If you get this right, you will drive greater and greater numbers to your event. One very effective way to drive visitors to your exhibition is through a well-researched and thought-out education program incorporated into the event. If you don’t have an in-house Conference Producer, then do what many companies and associations do and outsource this component of the event. A good Conference Producer will research what is trending among your target audience and develop an education program that will attract them to the exhibition.
Let’s face it, the bottom line for an exhibitor is return on investment – both time and money. If an exhibitor feels that they have been given the opportunity to present to a slew of new prospects with a good chance of conversion, then they will have hit their bottom line expectations. Of course, to do this, you need the right number and type of visitors, which is why it is so important to identify your visitors’ value drivers when planning the exhibition, and incorporating features into the exhibition that attract the visitors.
The challenge for many hosts, both corporates and associations, is when your event starts to outgrow your ability to service it properly. This seriously threatens your ability to deliver a positive triple bottom line. When you hit this point, most hosts will look to outsource the development and management of the event to continue delivering on the bottom line. For example, in 2015 ETF wanted to improve the outcomes for their Travel Industry Expo by focussing on the triple bottom line. To do this, they added a seminar program to the event to improve visitor satisfaction. It was a resounding success. Wanting to leverage on that success, this year ETF commissioned Visibel Events to work with the company and their key stakeholders to research and develop a seminar program that will drive increased engagement from visitors and grow the triple bottom line for their Melbourne and Sydney exhibitions. In short, if you nail the delivery on the triple bottom line, you can bank on an exhibition that will continue to grow both in size and reputation. That’s a win, win, win.