With an event portfolio that spans hundreds of attendees to tens of thousands, Dolaher knows how important reinvention is in the show market.
IDG World Expo, the dedicated event division of technology media company IDG, knows about comebacks. The group organizes Macworld, and when its namesake exhibitor dropped out in 2008, the show went on, reinventing itself last year as a more consumer-oriented experiential event. And as a manager of electronics expo E3, IDG World Expo played along when the ESA decided to radically downgrade the event as a business summit in 2007, but then relaunched it in 2009 with its traditional expo format, jumping from 5,000 attendees in 2008 to 41,000 attendees. In 2011, the event attracted 47,000 attendees and grew revenues by 11 percent.
Mary Dolaher, IDG World Expo’s CEO, notes these decisions reflect the business realities of today’s show market. E3, for example, now caps exhibitor booth sales at 15,000 square feet. In prior years, exhibitors could take as much as 45,000 square feet. In those go-go days, intra-show exhibits were highly competitive, with companies building a huge presence at great expense. Now, exhibitor ROI is more critical than ever, and Dolaher explains the new caps go a long way in helping justify event marketing expenses.
As for Macworld, the rabid fanbase for everything Apple helped justify a transition from a trade show-oriented format to a decidedly consumer-focused one, bringing in 25,000 attendees in 2011, up from 22,000 attendees in 2010. “For us, the consumer side of the event had not been done there,” says Dolaher. “We bit the bullet, created those experiences and sold sponsorships around them. Companies want different ways to participate in an event. They may not want a booth and just sponsor something.”
Two new events, mobile event mNext and HaloFest, debuted in 2011, but Dolaher says organizers have be in tune with exhibitor and attendee needs. “Companies are much more savvy and want to justify every penny. We have to be more strategic in how we sell and make sure we hit every single target that people want,” she says.
Vital Stats: E3 was up 3 percent in attendance in 2011, to 47,000, 11 percent in revenue.