Tag Archives: strategy development

How to Create New Business Models for Conferences and Exhibitions

Let’s face it: A lot of the traditional business models of conferences, exhibitions or trade shows are challenged today.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Cost pressure and business travel constraints, obviously
  • Social media that allow networking and information exchange 24/7
  • Web technologies that companies can use to present their products rather than investing in big stands

You can add more to that list. Bottomline is: Conferences and exhibitions need to embrace change rather than flee change! New business models have to be found and new revenue streams created. Essentially, the value proposition of a conference or trade show needs to be constantly redefined and expanded, and new formats created that capture the audience.

The business models of conferences and exhibitions consist of various elements, not just the revenue streams. It’s also about the resources you have (or you need) to create new formats, the partners you need, technologies you require, the target groups you’re aiming at and a lot more.

There is a great technology that allows you to keep all the necessary elements of a business model in mind when you do your strategy process: The Business Model Canvas. It has been developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, two researchers from the HEC University of Lausanne in Switzerland – together with 470 practitioners from 45 countries!

In this video, Alex Osterwalder explains to Google employees what the tool is all about:

There is a great book explaining the toolbox and how to implement it, plus a website and an iPad app.

Here is an example how the organizers of Event Camp Europe used it to design the business model of the event:

I find this concept perfect to structure the creative process of re-inventing your events.

4 Ways to successful Business Development for Conferences and Trade Shows

Earlier this week, I met an organizer whose trade shows are truly “classic”, healthy exhibitions, with huge stands, and growing. He’s in quite a lucky position! However, many exhibitions and conferences that have worked for many years are faced with the need to change and innovate.

Considering what the options are, I think you can somehow cluster the possible directions of innovation in 4 growth areas. Whatever you try to improve and whatever strategies for your events you try to develop, it is a good idea to focus on those 4 key factors. They can breath life into our business models.

Let me call them the 4 diamonds of trade show and conference business development, and I think all 4 are equally important for event strategy development:

1. 360 degrees visitor experiences

Seeing the whole event through the eyes of the visitor is key to developing a lasting experience. And that starts already way before the event itself takes place, and it continues after the show, too. Try to explore what your attendees really value, and deliver the utmost service. When thinking about business development and how to improve your show, this is an ideal starting point. I have compiled a number of best practice examples from around the world here in my blog, which you can find here. They cover experience design, interaction tools as well as new event formats like un-conferences, that put the visitor right in the center of the action.

2. Digital technology

It seems that the opportunities that event and trade show technologies offer have mushroomed in recent years. Whether you’re set out to streamline your processes, deliver better service, enhance the event experience, lower your cost or improve the team performance, the solutions are there. Click here for a list of amazing event tech trends that take your event to the next level. Virtual events, apps, cloud-based online services, SaaS, augmented reality… there are lots of opportunities out there at your disposal to “augment” your event performance.

3. Vmax for exhibitors and sponsors (V = Value!)

Exhibitors are no longer satisfied just by booking space and doing their thing on their own stand. They require additional promotional opportunities that make them stand our from the crowd and communicate their brand in an optimum way.  Creativity and exclusivity are key factors, and involving the exhibitors in the creation process of such branding opportunities is always a good idea. Click here to find examples of how organizers offer enhanced branding for their exhibitors and sponsors.

4. Social Media

I am convinced social media will revolutionize the way we communicate around our events and market them. Dialogue, not monologue is the way to move forward. The classic communication channels like website, email marketing, brochures etc. are anything but dead! But a good mix of all those marketing activities is advisable – with a growing percentage of social media cultivation. Check my blog entries on social media for events here for inspiration.

I think it is recommendable in any strategy process or brainstorming session for trade show and conference organizers to bear those growth opportunities in mind – and to explore best cases where other organizers have implemented exciting new concepts.

Take a look at this great post from Alison Hall with Corporate Meetings & Incentives, on what you can learn from the TED conferences. This is exactly what I mean by being inspired by best practice examples from outstanding minds in our industry.

Let’s continue the discussion here and/or on Twitter!