Will Pent-up Demand for Events Continue in the Long Run?

Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, offers her insight into the future of B2B exhibitions.

Author: Convene Editors       

For our 2023 Events Industry Forecast, Convene reached out to Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM, CEO, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, to get her take on what the exhibitions industry can expect in 2023. Here’s what she had to say:

Cathy Breden headshot

Cathy Breden

“The U.S. B2B exhibitions industry is sensitive to what is going on in the economy. The good news is that in Q2 of this year [2022], attendance was down by 22 percent over 2019 levels. To give perspective, attendance in Q1 was down by 33 percent over 2019 levels. Attendance is a leading indicator of performance. However, there is a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. On a micro level, the underlying fundamentals of the economy are strong. Inflation is a factor as we all know. Airfares are rising and the cost of doing business in general is increasing, while at the same time budgets are still recovering. Layer on the geopolitical issues we face, and the uncertainty is amplified.

“The CEIR Predict Conference, held in September at the MGM National Harbor, provided insights into the future of events. What resonated throughout the two days is optimism for in-person trade shows. We know there has been pent-up demand for returning to live events, yet there has been a seismic shift in how events are delivered. Event organizers have returned to using the same playbook, which in the long run will not position them for success. Pent-up demand has been discussed as a reason for future success, but will it continue in the long-term?

“Research has shown some things never change, both exhibitors and attendees want the same things from an event: meeting influential people and building relationships, knowledge transfer, community, socializing opportunities, and entertaining and engaging content. Organizers need to dig deeper into these five areas to better understand how to build an event that delivers differently than the pre-pandemic model.

“As Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy professor Sam Potoliccho said in his closing remarks at the conference:‘Embrace the discomfort, focus on who you are and what to do for the common good.’”

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