Farming it out: Tips for hiring the right show management company

Many organizations, including associations and corporations, know that hiring professional show management companies to maintain and grow their events can let them focus on their core missions. But it’s important that you select the right company to meet your objectives. Here are some expert tips on hiring a management company to help you conserve your resources and take your event to the next level.

Beginning the search
• Put detail in your RFP. For established shows, provide three years worth of historical data. Include net square footage, price per net square foot, gross revenue, exhibitor attrition, the number of new exhibitors each year, previous show locations, the name of the general service contractor, contracts with other vendors and the number and topics of educational sessions offered. Also list sponsorship programs, sponsorship revenue, past sponsors, total attendance and attendee demographics. If possible, provide copies of the show financials.

• Tell companies why you’re seeking outsourced services. In addition, include a history with any other management company and reasons for making a change. This information will help respondents develop a proposal and a management methodology that meets your objectives.

Evaluating potential “partners”
• Know your goals and the level and type of service you require. When evaluating potential management companies, ask these questions: Does their staff have depth? Do they manage events related to your industry? Can they demonstrate how they might leverage their experience on your behalf? Are they accredited by the American Society of Association Executives? Can they act fast and in an entrepreneurial manner? What staff training do they provide? Do they have best practices? What technology do they use to serve their clients? What do clients think of them? What is their track record? What is the leadership in their organization like, and would they be a good fit with your organization? Will they fit with your existing staff?

Working out the details
• Know your market when negotiating compensation. Be prepared to discuss the marketplace, your position in the market, other shows in your segment and the stability of your exhibitors. In determining compensation, show management companies look for such attributes as whether a show is positioned for growth, whether a show is gaining or losing market share and/or brand position and how well or poorly the event was managed in the past.

• Evaluate compensation methods based on pre-established goals for show revenue and what your organization can afford. Typical compensation methods include a percentage of gross revenue (the easiest method to calculate and verify), a combination of percentage of gross and net revenue (requires detailed definition of acceptable expenses to determine net revenue), a combination of gross revenue and a flat fee (a more secure arrangement for the management company than a percentage of gross revenue only), hourly billing (can be difficult to verify) or hourly billing plus a flat fee (may be more appropriate for a start-up show).

• Issue management contracts for a minimum of three years. A three-year period gives the management company time to build a show program up, implement changes and work through any concerns. Long-term contracts help the management company maintain continuity and build in operational efficiencies that enhance the event.

 


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