Some big picture thoughts...
Back in the 80s, over beers following a softball game, Tom Caridi, currently CFO for Questex Media, uttered these words to me and some fellow teammates: "Nobody ever didn't buy a booth because of the cost."
Money is generally not the object with exhibitors or attendees. Time is. We've talked about this over here before, most notably in a February post on "The Ignorance Premium", which riffed on a idea provided by Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void.
Hugh is at it again. This time he's talking about how you're not only competing with others in your market, you're competing with Microsoft and everybody else.
More importantly, we're both competing for what they call "Conversation Share". People have a choice; they can spend their limited time on earth talking about the X-Box, or talking about a small vineyard in South Africa. Their choice, not ours. All we can do is make their choice easier to make in our favor, using what limited resources we have. And that in turn sustains our markets. That in turn allows us to meet payroll.
How much time do attendees and exhibitors spend talking about your event? It's worth knowing, because if they're not talking about you, they're talking about something else. So what are you doing that's worth discussing? And who's doing the talking?
This is why plugging into the social networks in your markets is becoming more important. If you're worth talking about, the influencers in your market will carry the water for you.