The recent World of Concrete expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center was the largest trade show to be held in Las Vegas since the pandemic began. (Sam Morris, LVCVA/Las Vegas News Bureau)
World of Concrete 2021, June 7-10, attracted more than 58,000 registered professionals and hosted more than 1,564 leading-industry suppliers across more than 746,000 net square feet of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to lasvegashowto.com. Other estimates put that number closer to 30,000, but one thing is true, regardless of what numbers are plugged into those digits: With tens of thousands of participants, it was the largest trade show to be held in Las Vegas since the pandemic, attracting a good deal of attention in both the trade-show industry media and the local Las Vegas press.
Whether World of Concrete set the stage (or laid the foundation) for the return of large in-person events remains to be seen. In some respects, the fact that it happened the week before might have influenced the responses of 119 planners and 45 suppliers who participated in the June edition of the PCMA Business Events Recovery Dashboard.
Planners said they were feeling even more hopeful than in May (69 percent vs. 61 percent) and more determined (27 percent vs. 21 percent). A smaller percentage of suppliers (64 percent vs. 70 percent last month) identified with feelings of hopefulness, but 17 percent more (39 percent vs. 22 percent in May) said they were feeling inspired and creative and 12 percent more (30 percent vs. 18 percent) checked on the “determined” option.
Of course, that may also be due to the fact that vaccination rates continue to climb. For the first time in our Dashboard series, we asked respondents if they had been vaccinated, and nine out of 10 said yes — 75 percent of planners and 76 percent of suppliers have been fully vaccinated; 15 percent (both) have received one dose; and 4 percent of planners and 10 percent of suppliers plan to get the vaccine.
Regardless of their own vaccination status, respondents — 60 percent of planners and 41 percent of suppliers — remain averse to making proof of vaccination a requirement for events.
In a major switch over the past month, 56 percent of planners — vs. 30 percent in May — said the new CDC guidance that fully vaccinated individuals no longer had to wear masks in uncrowded indoor spaces and outdoors made it easier for them to plan in-person events.
Indeed, planners were more inclined to think that the new CDC recommendation would result in higher attendance at events — 45 percent vs. 28 percent in May, with only 43 percent (vs. 62 percent last month) thinking it will make events more appealing but fail to translate to more attendees. Suppliers, on the other hand, were less apt to think that more attendees going mask-free would mean more attendees overall — only 43 percent vs. 52 percent in May said it would make the prospect of in-person events more appealing, and 45 percent vs. 40 percent said it would not result in greater attendance.
A smaller percentage of both planners and suppliers are focusing their reskilling efforts on designing live experiences safely in a living-with-COVID world — 50 percent of planners in June vs. 67 percent in May and 21 percent vs. 35 percent of suppliers. Instead, they are focusing more of their efforts on creating new business models: 38 percent vs. 31 percent of planners and 42 percent vs. 36 percent of suppliers.
Perhaps at this point, they are more confident that the correct protocols are in place at event venues, requiring less of their attention. But the open-ended responses indicate that not all are equally enthusiastic about a full-on return to physical events. “There will be a pent-up demand for face-to-face, but when you live in a state where there is no mask mandate per our governor, that also includes non- or partially vaxxed people,” wrote one respondent. “No one is wearing their mask anymore, which is not good just yet. They are completely jumping the gun, and I hope it doesn’t backfire. There is also no social distancing or capacity limitations, which make it even worse.” Those sentiments were echoed by this respondent: “I think people’s desire to meet seems to be surpassing the ability to keep common-sense practices in place.”
This respondent clearly seemed to think World of Concrete was jumping the gun: “I think 30,000-person trade shows are a little early for now — Q4 or 2022 for sure.”
Still, there’s no denying that some planners are relishing having the chance to once again design in-person events — regardless of their size — like this one: “People are so excited to start attending conferences. Let’s have something new for them to enjoy. I need ideas for volunteer events (like stuffing parties), activities (like excursions to divide people into groups and teams), [and having] fun together [with] teambuilding activities to help people network and build friendships with a group throughout the conference.”
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.
Please download a PDF of the full June Recovery Dashboard results by clicking the link below.