by Michael J. Shapiro | August 17, 2018
Trade show exhibit-space sales are on the upswing, according to a recent study. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of exhibition and event organizers said their exhibit-space sales grew for their most recent event, according to survey results published in the 2018 Benchmarks & Trends in Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales. That figure represents a four-year high, as just 65 percent of respondents reported growth in 2017, preceded by only 63 percent in each of the previous two years. The study, conducted in conjunction with Exhibit Sales Roundtable, tallied responses from 164 organizers from the databases of Freeman, Lippman Connects and Trade Show Executive magazine. Lippman Connects produces the annual roundtable event.

Almost half (47 percent) of organizers who reported growth attributed that success to a more aggressive sales effort. Conversely, those who said their exhibit space either stayed the same (13 percent) or declined (15 percent) named lack of growth in their event's industry sector and competing events as the most common contributing factors.

Meanwhile, two out of three organizers noted a rise in sponsorship revenues from their most recent event, which is the highest percentage seen in three years. Just 8 percent of respondents reported declining sponsorship revenue. Not surprisingly, "new sponsorship offerings" was the most commonly cited reason for the growth.

In terms of both exhibit space and sponsorships, the sales teams themselves largely (83 percent) are remaining the same size. What's changing is how these things are being sold. Four out of 10 respondents said they are selling more frequently to agencies instead of dealing directly with exhibitors and sponsors. In terms of the negotiations, more than six in 10 (61 percent) of exhibitors and sponsors are angling for speaker slots at the events. More than one-fifth (22 percent) are actually downsizing exhibit space to increase their sponsorship investment, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are negotiating for exclusive sponsorships.

The vast majority of the survey respondents (81 percent) were association organizers, and more than four out of 10 (42 percent) represent large events of more than 125,000 net square feet. The average event represented by respondents had 580 exhibiting companies and 47 sponsoring companies.

An executive summary of the findings is available at The full 31-page study is available free to clients of the Exhibit Sales Roundtable, or for $345 directly from Lippman Connects.