Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 12 2014

What Does The Unpredictable Economy Mean For Trade Shows?

By David McMillin

The challenges of the Great Recession are beginning to fade from our memories, but today’s business environment is still plagued by a sense of uncertainty. As the meetings industry moves forward, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research is working to address how that uncertainty will impact trade show organizers. At last week’s CEIR Predict Conference, Ryan Sweet, Director at Moody’s Analytics and Adjunct Professor of Economics at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, offered a high-level look at where the economy is heading.

“We’re going to see a noticeable acceleration in the US economy,” Sweet said. “It’s going to put aside some fears about the US economy.”

However, the general public hasn’t been able to fully forget those fears.

“If you look at consumer confidence, it hasn’t fully recovered from the recession,” Sweet said. “I don’t know if it will ever fully recover.”

How is the big economic picture translating to the trade show floor? According to the findings from the most recent CEIR Index, the positive signals are paying off with gains in number of exhibitors, number of attendees, net square footage and overall revenue. In fact, real revenues increased by 1.4 percent in a year-over-year comparison.

SEE ALSO: 5 Trade Shows That Are Thinking Outside The Booth

Not All Shows Are Celebrating

While the overall exhibition industry is looking up, the CEIR Index breaks down the numbers across 14 different sectors. The outlook for Food, Discretional Goods and Services and Communications and IT looks very healthy with increases above four percent. However, the Education and Non-Profits sector is facing some big challenges with a decline over three percent.

“Education has been suffering,” Brian Casey, President and CEO, CEIR, said as he cited budget battles in major metropolitan areas for schools. “It’s making it harder to provide funding for those involved in teaching to get out and participate in trade shows.

SEE ALSO: Why Attendees Will Skip Your Trade Show

Change Is Coming

While the trade show industry is on track for a promising short-term future, there is one key ingredient that show organizers and exhibitors alike must embrace: change.

“There’s change ahead,” Bob Priest-Heck, President and COO, Freeman, said. “Experience marketing is as relevant as ever, but it’s going to require new models.”

Those new models will need to take the busy schedules of attendees into account, too.

“My biggest concern is time,” Dennis Slater, President and CEO, Association of Equipment Manufacturers and CEIR Chairman, said. “Is the experience good enough to come back after all the time passes between shows?”

SEE ALSO: 4 Tips Every Trade Show Organizer Should Share With Exhibitors

Looking for ways to make sure your show resonates with attendees? Click here for an OnDemand webinar on trade show design.

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