CEO, Exhibit Surveys Inc.
Did anything surprise you about the exhibitions
sector’s performance in 2015?
The first two quarters of 2015 posted better-than-expected growth rates for the exhibitions industry,
based on the Center for Exhibition Industry
Research’s CEIR Index. For the prior three years,
the overall growth of exhibitions was positive but
lagged U.S. GDP and was sluggish by comparison to the first and second quarters of this year.
Overall growth in the first quarter of 2015 was 4. 5
percent, followed by 3. 8 percent in the second
quarter, both above Real GDP. All 14 business and
industry sectors showed positive growth in the
What can we expect from the exhibitions sector
Positive growth for exhibitions is expected to continue in 2016. Whether it will match the significant
gains of the first half of 2015 is difficult to predict
and will be contingent to a large extent on the
performance of the U.S. macro economy. But it will
also be contingent on the ability of individual exhibition organizers to continue optimizing attendee
and exhibitor/sponsor value.
Our benchmarks indicate that attendee and
exhibitor perceptions of exhibitions based on both
the Net Promoter Score [a customer-loyalty met-ric] and overall value ratings are about as strong
as they have been. Balanced growth rates in attendance and exhibit space are the key to maintaining
good value among both attendees and exhibitors.
If attendance grows at a slower rate than space,
traffic density declines and exhibitor value ratings typically decline, particularly for the smaller
exhibitors who find it harder to compete for the
time and attention of attendees in low-density
shows. The good news is that attendance-growth
and exhibit-space-growth rates are currently
keeping pace with each other.
What is one trend that meeting professionals
should be keeping an eye on in 2016 and beyond?
The challenge for the future will be continued
growth in attendance. Based on the recent ECEF
[Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum]
Pulse survey of organizers conducted by Exhibit
Surveys and Lippman Connects, the No. 1 challenge mentioned by more than half of exhibition
organizers was growing attendance. Yet only 51
percent of exhibitions in 2015 increased spending
for attendee marketing, down from 62 percent
who increased spending in 2014.
Increased spending does not guarantee growth
in attendance, but this decline is not consistent
with the fact that growing attendees is the organizer’s top challenge. Intelligent investment in
attendee acquisition is critical to driving overall
value of the exhibition.
‘Balanced growth rates
in attendance and
exhibit space are the
key to maintaining
good value among both
attendees and exhibitors.
If attendance grows at a
slower rate than space,
traffic density declines.’