If we build it will they still come? Maybe not!

Location does NOT guarantee attendance.


It may work in the movies, but it won’t necessarily work for your show.

In the past, we assumed that tried-and-true, high-traffic destinations would remain the optimal places to have a show presence and result in the best ROI. But, we have once again been reminded of that one universal constant: change. The latest trends have called into question every preconceived notion about just being there, being good enough.

Content is king.

The following examples illustrate why it’s no longer sufficient to simply be present. Today’s audiences demand that you have a compelling message, clearly articulated benefits and a powerful rationale for them to visit.

You can’t always bet on the location. Case in point: Vegas.

Las Vegas is known as the gambling and, until recently, the trade-show capital of the world. But, while Vegas still boasts one of the most impressive tourism statistics, trade-show attendance has continued to slide since 2006.

(Source: Calculated Risk)

So, it’s clear that destination is no longer a sole determinant for show attendance and success.


Retailers can no longer count on just being at the mall to be successful.

In the March 31, 2013, Crain’s NY Business profiled successful American retailers. It showed how being present at American malls no longer guaranteed a strong bottom line.

“The only people who are increasing market share are the people who are really good at what they do.”

Crain’s New York Business, citing American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

Indeed, the Pittsburgh-based American Eagle (AE) is one of the few leading the charge in the national teen sector. Instead of just relying on its presence in American malls, AE inventoried trends and realized that how it sells is products is in many ways more important that what it’s selling.

Tapping into the teen psyche, AE launched a skinny jean campaign that resulted in a 9% increase in revenue in one year. The takeaway here is that AE realized that it could rest on its laurels and assume that just being in American malls would guarantee the relevance of American Eagle.


The silver screen doesn’t have the same luster, when it comes to attendance.


(Source: White-Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group)

Ever heard of Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime or Hului? American movie theaters have, because Netflix and the like have redefined how and where we watch movies. Movie theaters are now scrambling to find new ways to attract more audiences, who are increasingly becoming content to wait a couple of months to watch Frozen in the comfort of their own homes.

Being the neighborhood movie theater is no longer good enough.

If we’re to glean anything from any of these examples it’s that being there won’t necessarily translate into being there from a revenue or ROI perspective. Give audience a reason to come. You can have the most attractive, coolest trade-show booth on Earth. But, if no one sees it or cares about it, what’s the point?

So, remember, if you build a baseball diamond in cornfield in Iowa, maybe the ghost of your long lost grandfather will show up to play ball. But, if you build a booth in Vegas, without a compelling reason to attract visitors, you’re not even in the game.