Quality Leads Trump Increasing Costs For Exhibitors in 2024

April 18, 2024

While 61% of exhibitors claimed unpredictable costs have a major influence on their decision to attend an event, 93% believe the quality of expected attendees is the most impactful outcome, even when compared to external constraints, according to “Event Excellence by Design,” a new report that takes an inside look at exhibitor objectives and provides show organizers with insightful data to help them design more impactful event experiences.

Lead quality remains the No. 1 measure of success, even more than last year. When exhibitors were asked how they measure the value their organization receives from exhibiting and sponsoring, 67% said quality of leads in 2024, compared with 63% in 2023. Other measures of success include: actual sales (51%), number of leads (50%), potential sales (42%), number of meetings/business connections (32%) and traffic to exhibit as a result of sponsorship (10%)

Created by global events company Freeman, the report follows on the heels of its 2024 Attendee Trends Report, released in January, which proposed a new way for organizers to think about event excellence.


Backstory: Comprising a wide swath of B2B exhibitors and sponsors who also exhibit, the report’s data stems from a survey conducted in February that garnered responses from 1,911 industry professionals.

Why it matters: From understanding exhibitor concerns to uncovering where exhibitors and attendees do or don’t align, the data helps pave a path for organizers to produce events that are more meaningful for everyone despite differences in age, event type and objective, according to Freeman officials.

Freeman's Ken Holsinger

What they are saying: “Successful events don’t happen by accident, and it’s important to understand the objectives of all parties involved including exhibitors, attendees and sponsors,” said Ken Holsinger, senior vice president of strategy at Freeman. “For event organizers, this understanding of their customers and ongoing shifts in trends and demographics is all critical in delivering value to the overall experience.”

We did a deeper dive into the data to put together this curated list of highlights from the research:

Exhibitor participation is holding steady: After a successful 2023, most exhibitor budgets will increase or stay the same in 2024. According to the report, 79% of exhibitors plan to attend the same number of events or more in the next year, and 75% do not plan on cutting back their exhibiting budgets.


 Lead generation reigns supreme: The most important components of the overall event experience for exhibitors are:

         ◦       35% lead generation

         ◦       25% brand impact/awareness

         ◦       24% sales

         ◦       17% lead nurturing

Exhibitor demographics and event types are shifting: 46% of exhibit marketers are now female (5% more than last year), and their average age has decreased from 51 to 47. 72% are exhibiting at various types of events beyond just trade shows.

Source: Spring 2024 Freeman Syndicated Survey of Event Exhibitors/Sponsors

More exhibitors are considering independent events: Despite promising exhibitor event plans and budgets, gaps in expectation and satisfaction with third-party events remain. Those exhibitors who can afford to are planning or executing their own independent events to realize more value.

Exhibitors want more out of lead generation and networking: Meeting with customers/prospects and acquiring leads are top objectives, however, exhibitors are increasingly unsatisfied with the leads they receive.

Exhibitors want predictable, all-inclusive packages: 64% of exhibitors agree that turnkey, all-inclusive exhibit packages are the most important type of assistance from event organizers. However, “all-inclusive” can look different for small and large exhibitors.

Big picture: The report also details the growing gaps between attendee and exhibitor expectations, exhibitor behaviors and attendee needs and large and small exhibitors, and provides valuable action steps for organizers to bridge those gaps and deliver greater value across the events ecosystem.

Download the Freeman 2024 Exhibitor Trends Report – Event Excellence by Design here.

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