Check out tradeshow startup man Tim Bourquin's thoughts on speakers and sponsors who don't seem to have much interest in showing up on the show floor. The sponsor who only wanted to cough up for something for the goody bag said to Tim:
But getting a catalog in the goodie bag and an ad in the program isn't exactly Jettson's material; that's been around almost as long as tradeshow floors, so I'm guessing this guy just has a booth aversion. But it's an interesting question as to what those new opportunities might be, though. What I hear some shows are doing is, for those who don't want to buy a booth or provide other sponsorship dollars, they pay a hefty fee to attend (three to five times that of regular attendees, sometimes more) so they can mingle with buyers even when boothless. Others are allowing people to pay to hold hospitality suites, but again, that's not new.
Is the traditional tradeshow model outdated, as Tim's client suggests? Is there some other way to get buyers and sellers together and still remain solvent, much less profitable? The reluctance to buy booth space isn't just Tim's problem—we hear about it from all types of shows where clients want the buyer exposure, but not the booth.