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Event ROI Is Under the Microscope. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

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Event ROI Is Under the Microscope. Here’s What You Can Do About It., is a contributed article from Nth Degree Events.

Trade show and event organizers are feeling the strain of today’s event economics. Airfares, transportation, food and beverage, labor costs, venue rentals, and hotel prices have gone up in cost, especially in top-tier markets.

According to the 2024 Amex Global Trends Forecast, more than two-thirds of respondents predict an increase in overall meeting spend in 2024, and nearly half of North American planners say their event planning priorities in 2024 will be shaped mainly by cost-saving measures. Meanwhile, hotel owners say the high pricing of events seen today is not a blip but a new foundation for future pricing, courtesy of rising labor, energy, and other operational costs.

Not only does this make growth a challenge, it can also hinder delivery of the fundamentals for making your show or event a success. Faced with these economic realities, event organizers must prioritize planning, strategy, and creativity to help deliver great events on budget.

Here are some steps you can take to control costs and boost ROI in your next event.

It’s not enough to hire—you need to invest in training

Event jobs are making a comeback, but many of those filling these positions lack experience in the events industry. According to Live Data Technologies, event jobs have been clawing their way back to pre-COVID levels, but about two-thirds of those who started jobs following the pandemic were new to the events industry (based on a sample of more than 15,000 new event jobs in 2022 and 2023).

For event organizers, this trend underscores the importance of onboarding, training, and mentoring. Associations such as CEMA and PCMA offer top-tier training for event teams, including on-demand learning, one-on-one coaching, on-site training, and more. Proper training and mentoring takes more work up front, but the ROI — now more than ever — is a virtuous circle that helps to retain new hires, eases the burden on overworked team members, and enables you to better support your clients.

Invest in training today in the knowledge it will pay off in the long run. And if you still run into labor shortages, your event management company should be able to outsource your needs to partners with access to a guaranteed labor pool — and save you money in the process.

Consider secondary markets

Bleisure travel — the blending of business with personal leisure time — is alive and well. At the same time, high event costs are motivating organizers to hold events in second-tier cities — a trend supported by various studies.

According to the Amex forecast cited above, 83% of respondents said they’d switch venues for savings of 6% or more, with half agreeing to switch for up to 10% savings. Knowland’s 2024 State of the Meetings Industry report finds that meetings and events in secondary markets outpaced the traditional Top 25 markets in January, with cities like Lexington, Kentucky (76.4%), and Syracuse, New York (34.6%) seeing significant year-over-year upticks. And a recent intercept study conducted by Nth Degree Events found that 90% of interviewees said they would participate in a regional event series.

To help manage meeting costs, consider changing destinations and venues to secondary markets that provide an opportunity for lower prices while maintaining high-quality experiences. Look for that sweet spot where secondary markets and bleisure potential overlap — Nashville with its music scene, for example, or Louisville with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Also in line with attendees’ penchant for bleisure, consider innovations such as flexible agendas, shorter show days, and shorter events, which allow attendees to build in extra time or add on extra days (before or after the event) for work or play. Our recent intercept survey showed most attendees (57%) preferred a three-day event over a four or more-day event (13%).

Engage your vendors and suppliers early

Consult with your event management company as part of the venue selection process and don’t hesitate to tap their expertise before making big decisions. This will help ensure you lock in fees and develop partnerships that may save you from costly mistakes further down the planning cycle.

For example, your event management company may offer logistics and transportation services that give organizers and exhibitors a range of options to ensure their materials arrive at the event when needed. These should include not just standard ground shipping, but also expedited shipping options, full truckload (FTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, and event-to-event caravan solutions. This kind of choice and flexibility helps you create operational efficiencies and budget predictability.

Finally, in negotiating contracts, don’t let your exhibitors bear the brunt as they have in recent years due to a lack of transparency, poor metrics, and inflated show service costs. A mainstay of an exhibitor-friendly policy is having a single price for material handling. Fern’s 1RATE program, for example, provides exhibitors the certainty of having one per-pound rate with no minimum and overtime charges, no marshaling yard and special handling, warehouse, or small package fees.

Managing rising costs in the event industry is a constant challenge, but with proper planning combined with strategic and out-of-the-box thinking, your event can shine — even in these economically challenging times.

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