ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Exposition, held August 18-21, at Chicago’s McCormick Convention Center, set an attendance record for the association of associations as well as featured the unveiling of a bold pricing strategy for its experimental XDP event held in the Washington, D.C., area each April.

Perhaps the biggest news item was the radical “pricing strategy” of offering free admission for association professionals to ASAE’s XDP, or Xperience Design Project, held April 11-12, 2019, at the Washington, D.C., area’s Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

“You pay us only what you think it’s worth after the event,” said John H. Graham IV, CEO, president and director of ASAE. “We think XDP will be so game changing it will cost you only as much or as little as you want to pay.”

Graham denied that the move was made because of flagging attendance numbers for the highly experimental event, which is entering into its third year.

“XDP attendance was down about 10 percent,” Graham said of 2018’s XDP attendance numbers, “so we’re not overly concerned.”

While XDP may be experiencing at least a small amount of attendance challenges, ASAE’s big 2018 annual is charging ahead at full steam.

According to Graham, the Chicago event attracted 6,068 attendees, with its last event in the Windy City attracting 5,972, for comparison.

“We were very pleased,” Graham said. “The only place we could do a larger meeting is if we did it in Washington, D.C., and that hasn’t happened in 25 years.”

Graham said the buyer-to-seller ratio 63 percent buyer to 37 percent seller, and only 29 percent of the attendees were first-time attendees—as opposed to a traditional level of about 35 percent—which along with the overall large attendance number pointed to a healthy amount of repeat customers.

The breakdown of attendance is as follows:

  • Executives: 3,534
  • Exhibitors: 2,117
  • Others: 417
  • Expo hall booths: 713 booths representing 450 exhibitors

The event also gave back to charity, raising just over $70,000 for The Greater Chicago Food Depository and Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly. Event management company GES donated $5,000.