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  • Jennifer Kerhin, MBA, CEM

The Exhibitors' Perspective

Associations are facing the difficult decision to postpone or cancel their annual conferences and tradeshows. During this process, here are the top three items to consider from the exhibitor/sponsor perspective.


1. Talk to all tradeshow vendors about cancellation/postponement possibilities.

Tradeshow vendors will have different perspectives to help your exhibitors/sponsors than those whose primary concerns are for members/attendees. State it is CONFIDENTIAL until public notice.

  • Meeting Planners

  • Sales team

  • General Service Contractor/Decorator

  • AV

  • Security

  • Catering

  • Exhibitor Insurance firm

  • PR/Marketing firm

All of these vendors may have had contracts with your exhibitors. Perhaps exhibitors have purchased furnishings, AV, electricity, catering, insurance, or security. Determine the current status of orders. You are probably discussing your contracts with them…be sure to ask vendors what their refund policy to exhibitors will be.


2. Exhibitor Communication should be at the SAME TIME as Attendee notification.

  • DO - Have one comprehensive statement with separate details for attendees and exhibitors/sponsors.

  • DO – Provide an online update for exhibitors/sponsors at the SAME time as attendees.

  • DO – Send an email specific to exhibitors/sponsors once information has been posted.

  • DO – Call all exhibitors/sponsors, or at least all of your sponsors.

  • DO – Have a person designated to answer sponsor/exhibitor inquiries – separate from attendees’ questions.

  • DO NOT - Include one paragraph with exhibitor information on the bottom.

  • DO NOT – Include refund information for attendee registration without also including exhibitor refund information.

3. Define the refund policy for exhibitors and sponsors.

Exhibitors and sponsors will probably have different refund parameters and deadlines than attendees. You may consider offering credits for future meetings or sponsorships. Many sponsors may still be interested in reaching your members and attendees. Determine if you wish to consider credits for virtual sponsorships – eblasts, online advertisements, content sponsorships (webinars, session recordings). Make decisions regarding deadlines for credits vs refunds. Most importantly – RECONCILE every week!




Remember that exhibitors and sponsors have a different perspective. They aren’t always your members – but they are a valuable part of your future!


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