Should an Event Owner Always be Ready for a Sale?

Should an Event Owner Always be Ready for a Sale?

by Toni Corvi Piela

Should an event owner “always be ready for a sale?” If so, what does that entail?

When the Reed Exhibitions’ corporate development team engages with event organizers about a potential acquisition, it’s always interesting to see how wide eyed some get (and understandably so) when the due diligence process is explained. The request lists for financial, legal and commercial due diligence can seem overwhelming. But in reality we can help simplify the process, and once the information is pulled together the seller often learns a lot more about its business as well.

Should an event owner always be ready for a sale? Our answer is emphatically, “Yes,”  because we are always looking to partner with great event organizers to add to the Reed Exhibitions portfolio. Also the process of doing due diligence on a business can be highly advantageous even, if the event is never sold. At Reed Exhibitions we make a point of being highly collaborative throughout the process, and share the commercial insights with sellers into their businesses and markets that we obtain from our independently conducted research. The process can also help an organizer learn where there may be opportunities for both revenue growth and cost savings, and provide the organizer insight into the benefits of working with a partner with deep pockets, purchasing power with suppliers, and international reach.

Here are some tips on how to best organize your data and business information to both optimize your event for a sale and gain a better understanding of where there may be opportunity to improve event performance.

Event revenue: The more detail here, the better! Since most trade show revenue is tied directly to square footage, any level of insight into the cost per square foot and square footage sold is extremely helpful. If you can break that down further by product category and/or pavilion, it helps the acquiring party more accurately forecast growth opportunities, especially if you uncover underrepresented categories relative to the size of your industry. The same insights can be applied to sponsorship-driven events and conferences.

Direct expenses: It is vitally important to have a detailed break-out of expenses related directly to the event, to uncover where there may be cost-saving opportunities. Major expense categories in events include venue fees, general contractors, food & beverage, A/V, marketing, security, and registration. In addition to keeping a detailed record of expenses, you should also maintain and annually review contracts with all service providers tied to the above expenses, so that you are not being charged for a service you aren’t using.

Customer information: Exhibitors/sponsors and attendees are what bring a majority of the acquisition value to your event—without them the event wouldn’t exist! An acquiring party will be looking to inherit a solid amount of customer information, including contact details (name, title, company, phone number and email are the most crucial); retention rates; post-show survey results; and sales history (i.e., have exhibitors  upgraded or downgraded a booth in the past few years; do they typically buy sponsorships; has an attendee switched from buying conference passes to expo hall only passes; etc.). The less transferrable information available on customers, the less attractive an acquisition may be.

Event staff: In an ideal situation, key employees will move to the acquiring party so that event knowledge and customer relationships are retained. Keeping an accurate record of company organization charts, employee roles/responsibilities, and salary history are helpful for the due diligence process.

As you can see, information and data are crucial from an acquisition point of view. While their ready availability certainly makes the due diligence process easier, they  also help to make for a smoother transition period, which ultimately helps with customer experience and helps to assure customers aren’t negatively impacted post-acquisition.

If you have any questions about preparing for an acquisition, feel free to contact me. Reed Exhibitions is active in almost every major market across the globe.

Toni Corvi Piela is Director, Corporate Development for Reed Exhibitions, a division of the RELX Group. Opinions are her own. She can be reached at 203-840-5446 or

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