Trade Show Measurement is Simple. Really!

Trade Show Measurement is Simple. Really!

By Dax Callner, Chief Strategy Officer, GES Events

The events industry is always talking about measurement…and if we’re honest, we all kind of glaze over the data when analysts propose complicated methodologies and algorithms to evaluate event performance.

But don’t let the measurement wonks fool you. The secret truth to measurement is that it doesn’t have to be complicated, and in fact the simpler it is the more actionable it can become. At the end of the day, that’s why we measure – not just to know how we’re doing but to identify how we can improve and grow – right?

Let’s talk trade show measurement. This post is for show organizers who are hoping to demonstrate the value of the event to their stakeholders but who are always looking for ways to optimize results.

First, you need to answer a few questions to make sure your measurement approach meets your organization’s business needs:

  1. What are you selling? Is your show the #1 driver of revenue to the organization or are there other sources of revenue to consider? It’s important to answer this because you want to measure the impact of the show on ALL revenue drivers that the event may impact.
  2. What is the brand? Measuring brand perception is critical as stronger brands = stronger businesses. But many organizers need to decide what the primary brand is…as in, is it the association, or is it the event?

Let’s look at two scenarios based on these questions and work through how to measure performance for each:

Scenario 1: A national association with many revenue-driving events and publications and for whom the dominant brand is the organization, not the event.

Key metrics:

  • Anticipated association revenue: This metric looks at all potential revenue streams, including the show being measured, and evaluates how the event is impacting each revenue stream. For example, through survey analysis, the organization can determine changes in sponsor/exhibitor likelihood to purchase advertising in year-round publications as a result of their participation in the show. Or, survey data can show how attending the big show will impact the likelihood of attendees to go to other association events throughout the year.
  • Brand perception impact: Because the association is the dominant brand, this methodology uses survey data to assess changes in how attendees and sponsors/exhibitors perceive the association. For example, let’s say it is important for the association to be considered an industry thought leader. Surveys should ask how the event impacted folks’ perceptions of the association as a thought leader.
  • Association loyalty: Related to perception but critical to measure independently is loyalty to the association. For example, the association may ask members how the event impacted their likelihood to remain members of the association. Also, the famous Net Promoter Score should be asked here – about the association – as this industry metric is also a reflection of intended loyalty to the brand.
  • Event quality: High quality events attract qualified audiences and keep exhibitors happy. This metric is used to understand what is working and not working with the event, with the goal of driving continuous improvement.

Scenario 2: An event which is the dominant brand and is the only or most significant annual revenue driver for the organizer.

  • Anticipated event revenue: This metric looks at revenue streams tied directly to this important event – attendance revenue and sponsor/exhibitor revenue. Through survey data, it evaluates how the show affected attendees’ likelihood to attend next year, and how sponsor investment levels will change. This analysis is very helpful in year-over-year budgeting, as it provides some guidance on what to expect from a revenue perspective.
  • Brand perception impact: Because the event is the dominant brand, this methodology uses survey data to assess changes in attendee and sponsor/exhibitor perceptions of the show. For instance, an organizer wants to know their show is perceived as critical to the industry. Because if it doesn’t…action needs to be taken.
  • Show loyalty: The Net Promoter Score also works when it comes to the show. We want people to feel so satisfied with their experience they are very willing to recommend it to others.
  • Event quality: This metric stays the same as above – using this metric to assess people’s experiences at the show so that you can continue to deliver value (or seek to increase the value based on their feedback).

These two models can be mixed and matched based on your business priorities but as I said up front…not that complicated! But it is critical that we evaluate trade shows against the business value drivers of the organization.

Those are the business metrics. Let’s add one additional metric which may feel softer but which is a must for trade show organizers: Contribution to the industry.

Ask yourself, “What are all of the ways our event can contribute to the growth or stability of our industry?” Then, look to evaluate the performance of the event against industry contribution. For example, you might asses:

  • Anticipated business growth/acceleration, through an analysis of leads captured across the show
  • Alignment of attendees to the organization’s vision, through survey data
  • Expected impact of the organization’s calls-to-action delivered at the event (also through surveys)
  • The increase in professional skills, evaluated through session surveys or certifications awarded
  • Myriad other metrics based on your unique initiatives as an industry contributor

The combination of business, brand and industry impact metrics will provide a robust, holistic assessment of event performance – helping you understand how you are truly moving the needle, how you can leverage what is working, and how you can drive continuous improvement.

Dax Callner is the Chief Strategy Officer at GES Events, leading a practice that specializes in physical, digital and social experience development, measurement & analytics. He can be reached at

Share this:


Designing Multigenerational Events: Navigating Challenges and Embracing Opportunities

No Guts, No Glory: John Galante’s Journey to High Quality Content, In-Person and Online

CEIR Q1 2023 Index Results Show Strong Rebound of US Exhibitions Industry Continues