"If you aren’t feeling the pressure of measuring events [at which you exhibit], you will," warned Mim Goldberg, president, Marketech, Inc., Westborough, Mass., at the Event Measurement Conference, held last Thursday at the Tremont Hotel in Boston. "The footsteps are coming up from behind," she said, describing the intensified pressure exhibitors are facing.

"Executives don’t want to know that the booths were full," said Goldberg, co-founder with partner Marc Goldberg of the conference. "They want to know the return on objectives: What did we put in, what did we get out of it, and how does it compare to other marketing techniques?"

About 50 corporate exhibitor professionals attended the one-day Boston program, sponsored by the Trade Show Exhibitors Association. The Goldbergs spoke about methods and techniques for event measurement. Other presenters included David Rich, vice president, program strategy, and Mike Westcott, vice president, marketing, both of George P. Johnson Co., based in North Easton, Mass.

Keynote speaker Skip Cox, president, Exhibit Surveys Inc., Red Bank, N.J., pointed out that it is often difficult to "isolate the impact" of the show on sales because the typical sales cycle usually has several "touch points." Therefore, sales objectives should be set with the goal of contributing to overall revenue generation. "If you achieve objectives and it leads to revenue growth, then you’ve done your job," he said.

Translating these measurement objectives into dollars and cents is where the real value is documented, noted Marc Goldberg. He explained the process using a event-measurement calculator provided to attendees on CD. He demonstrated how to estimate the cost of attracting an attendee to the booth, generating a sales lead, reaching a prospect through a live presentation, introducing a new product to an attendee, generating publicity, and ultimately, proving the ROI of show participation.

"If we are generating leads for $67 per person, how does it compare to other forms of marketing?" he asked. If it compares favorably, then planners can make a strong case for the value of the event. If it doesn’t, then money may go to other forms of marketing unless performance improvements are made.

On average, it costs about $117 to attract an attendee to a booth, but $200 per visitor to establish personal contact, contended Cox, citing Exhibit Surveys’ research. That’s because creating an environment that fosters personal interaction often requires additional resources, such as relevant information (new products, market intelligence, industry trends, etc.), staff (or senior staff), better on-floor promotion, and pre-show marketing. "Attendees want face-to-face interaction and they want information," he said. "Sometimes we lose sight of those two basic principles."