local media insider
Case study

Amazing Aging expo scores a home run at the Denver Post

How to secure 10,000 attendees, 150 vendors and 82% return rate in a first time show

Alisa Cromer
Posted

Company: Denver Post
Initiative: Amazing Aging Expo
Key Executive: Sarah Weiss, Events manager

Challenge: As a one person events department, responsible for the P&L (with the VP of sales), set up and sales, Sarah Weiss wanted to create a marquis event that would start generating revenues for the department right away, and allow it to grow and flourish.

Strategy: The sales team came up with the idea for an "Amazing Aging Expo" geared to the 50+ market. Working as a team with sales, Weiss created an event ultimately signing up 150 vendors with an 82% profit margin. LMI estimates the event cleared $500,000 in revenues.

Here's how the event was put together. See a video created for the first year show above, now being used on the web site to promote the second year event.

Creating the vendor List

Since attendees to this event got in free, the key to revenues was a big vendor list. And with a one-person events department, the sales team needed full involvement in finding leads. Weiss worked with reps on the sales floor to compile the list of vendors. 

Prospects included health and wellness, legal, insurance, transportation, financial services, technology and housing.

Ultimately, 70% of the 150 vendors sold were newspaper advertisers. About 30% of vendors called in from advertising the event in the newspaper.

Weiss says her ability to work as a team with the sales department was aided by her background working for Disney Cruiselines, where she picked up "the yes mentality and the experience mentality."

"Get me on the call, bring me to the appointment and I will sell the experience and they will continue to advertise," she says.

"It's usually the person putting on the event that has the time to make a call, and go on a call and I do this 20 times a day. We work as a team; if the rep is happy and if the client is happy they will sell it."

Sponsorship tiers

Booth sales started at $1,800 for the year including advertising in print and online packages with five more tiers. The website stays up all year with a non-expiring link to their website. The first tier is a single booth, plus 1/8 page; then a double with a 1/4 page. A premier sponsor receives a half page ad plus advertorial that equalled a full page.

Top sponsorships were sold at the high seven figure range. 

Venue and programming:

The event was held at the Mariott Denver Tech Center at the end of September.

The event was just one day, with five speakers simultaneously speaking for 45 minutes each across 5 contiguous ballrooms, every hour for seven hours. Speakers included financial planners, lawyers specializing in senior issues, eye surgeons, hip and knee doctors, assisted living and other housing, home health, financial planners, dental implant surgeons, libraries, and Alzheimer associations.

Speakers included some of the same categories as the booth vendors, but were required to fill out an application to be selected. 

Also scheduled to speak are the newspapers editors, columnists and even the photographer.

Attendees get in free and also receive a free swag bag. In fact, 10,000 of these bags were given out.  

Ticket and parking are also free. "Here, that's a key for the senior crowd," Weiss said.

Promotions

Weiss personally attended 14 other local senior shows to promote the date and the event, plus posting notices at libraries and other venues where retirees were likely to be.

In fact, occasionally she invited the other producers to put booths up at her new event and cross-promote. 

"They did not have the financial and advertising  backing of ours... I introduced myself to (them), and asked why don't we promote each other. I gave them a booth at mine, one is spring, one is summer and mine is in the fall."

The print special section with advertorials from high end sponsors and a booth map was the largest in the history of the Denver Post at 48 pages and mailed to the entire circulation on a Thursday prior to the Saturday event. Two weeks before the event, a VIP kick-off party, for vendors only, is hosted at the venue.

"It takes the feeling of being flustered out of the event. We give them a drink, a map, and take them on a tour to show them, you are going to be here. They won't need to ask so many questions (day of) because they are already 'in the know.'"

At the pre-show party, vendors receive their vendor package, see their area and booth space.

With no celebrities to pay and an all volunteer staff, margins are also high - more than 70%.

"The whole sales floor was there, working, because the majority of the people on the show floor were their clients."

Day of the event, Weiss opens a vendors lounge with a cell phone charging station, coffee, lunch and a snack in the afternoon.

After the event, she hand-writes a thank you card.

"I have a story for everybody...  a high end law firm decorated their booth in yellow ducks, with a sign that said 'let me help you get all your ducks in a row', so I told them how I used their booth when giving out directions, 'there are more booths past the ducks, and thanking them for 'allowing my staff to always talk about your booth.'"

Results: With 150 booths sold, this event generated about $150,000 according to LMI estimates, with a 70% plus profit margin, and 80% retention for the following year.

A new event, Amazing Adventures, has also been created after many attendees asked about the category.

Many thanks to Sarah Weiss for sharing this great event with us.

Sarah Weiss

Sara Weiss, Events Manager, Denver Post

See also Amazing Adventures Denver .

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

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