Tradeshow Organizers Cautiously Optimistic About Rebound
Hanley Wood, Questex, Diversified offer their take on health of the industry.
While far from booming, the tradeshow industry has received a few positive shots in the arm recently. Last month, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research reported that although the overall industry slipped 1.4 percent during the second quarter, certain “indicators of recovery” have seen declines slow compared to previous quarters. Professional attendees, another of the recovery indicators, actually grew 4.5 percent during the quarter.
And there was Champion Exposition Services, which in its Exhibitor Trends Survey found that more than half of exhibitors surveyed plan to participate in more tradeshows in the future. The report also called for a rebound in tradeshow activity next year. And so does media and information industry private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Partner Hal Greenberg recently said the tradeshow market will show a gain of about four percent over the next five years.
With these positive points in mind, we reached out to a few of the industry’s most significant tradeshow producers to find out how their businesses are fairing now amidst the downturn and what their forecasts are for 2011. Here’s what they had to say.
president and CEO
Questex Media Group LLC
Our events (over 30 annual tradeshows and business events) have performed well in 2010 with revenue up on average in the 6 to 8 percent range and attendance up 10 to 15 percent over last year. The U.S. and Asia have generally performed at the higher end of those ranges.
Paid attendance to tradeshows and conferences has been up year-to-year throughout 2010 as companies relaxed some of the travel and expense-saving restrictions they put in place last year in response to the downturn. Sponsorships of all kinds are also up well over 10 percent. We see companies changing the spending mix on how they go to market at shows with reductions in exhibit space being offset by increased spending on sponsorships that can drive traffic and leads during the event as well as pre- and post.
This recovery has yet to produce sustained increases in business investment, job growth and successive quarters of real economic growth and until that happens companies will likely continue to be cautious about how they buy. Since there has been consolidation in the domestic market, the growth of our U.S. events is increasingly dependent on international participation. The well-known problem of extraordinary delays in securing visas to enter the United States, especially from the BRIC countries, continues to hinder growth.
But the increased interest of companies in creative sponsorship programs, appointment event features and the use of technology to extend the reach of events are all opportunity areas right now.
Hanley Wood Exhibitions
I’m real bullish on tradeshows. What you’re going to find, at least over the next few years, is that the quality of the attendee will be high. The “tire-kicker” attendee has been flushed out over 2008 and 2009.
At Hanley Wood, we saw some pretty good declines over the last two thirds of 2009. The shows that are cycling around now are showing single-digit improvement in terms of square-footage and in some cases an even greater increase in terms of attendance. For example, our Remodeling show is tracking about 22 percent ahead of last year pre-registration. Sponsorship revenue seems to be about even to where we left off in 2009, which saw a decline. Residential construction shows are showing moderate recovery and the commercial construction shows are going through some tougher times, although still hanging in there.
We saw a lot of companies sitting on the sidelines in late 2008, 2009, because there were so many unknowns with the economy. Now a lot of building product manufacturers are finding that tradeshows are a good investment and are jumping back into the game—albeit in a more conservative fashion than previous to 2008.
Every show that we manage or own right now is number one in the sector that they serve. The shows that are not are continuing to be under more duress. I think there will be some degree of market share grab. We’ll continue to invest in building our conference programs and to create more networking opportunities. Our research shows over and over again that the three primary reasons people are going to shows are for educational reasons, for networking reasons and to find new products.
At the end of the day, the overall need to connect with leaders in the industry and to talk about the common problems you’re having with your business doesn’t go away. That really works best in a face-to-face format. We’ll see some moderate improvement over the next few years. The organizers that build their events around education, networking and new products will be the ones that wind up in the best shape.
vice president of strategic marketing and business intelligence
Diversified Business Communications
Diversified is a multi-national company with divisions in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and India. We produce over 100 face-to-face events worldwide and produce 12 to 15 tradeshows from our Portland, Maine headquarters.
We have seen an increase in attendance in many of our events this years and an increase in attendee retention. Exhibitor satisfaction has been high which is most clearly demonstrated in our high resign rates.
Overall, the tradeshow model continues to evolve and the economic downturn has made our customers look more closely at their ROI on our events. But face to face events will always be critical to the buying process and an important part of building business relationships. That being said, we are evaluating ways in which to better serve our younger customers and respond to concerns about ROI. (This means working with CVBs and vendors to help reduce the overall cost of exhibition participation).
We are cautiously optimistic that the tradeshow industry is and will continue to see and uptick.