Four Trends Tradeshow Organizers Need to Know Now

An updated International Association of Exhibitions and Events white paper includes new tradeshow trends affecting the industry. Among them: data capture, educational offerings, attendee security, and the economy.

With less than a month to go until 2016 (Wow, what happened to 2015?!), it’s probably time to start thinking about the next year  (or two, or three) and what it will mean for your association’s meetings and events.

Lucky for you, there’s already some groups that have made their predictions. And the latest to enter the fray is the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), which released an updated version of its 2013 white paper, Future Trends Impacting the Exhibitions and Events Industry, earlier this week.

Francis J. Friedman, chair of IAEE’s Future Trends Task Force and president of Time & Place Strategies, Inc., noted that some of the major updates in the 2015 edition address data, including how it relates to capture, strategy, and security; education approaches; physical security; and the impact of the global economic picture.

“The information contained in this white paper is key to show organizers and valuable supplier partners as they formulate their strategic plans,” said IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CTA, FASAE, CAE, in a statement. “Although show organizers are very adept at handling rapid changes, having a fairly good idea of what to expect is an invaluable aid, which is exactly what this publication provides.”

Here’s closer look at the four areas Friedman pointed out.

Data Dive

The updated white paper looked at data in a number of ways. The first was big data.

“While big data analysis and adoption is in the early stages, in three years it will be more broadly based and actively driving marketing investment decisions,” according to the report. “Pragmatic decision making and ‘machine decision making’ will be actively supported by the results of big-data-style analysis.” Doing so will allow meetings teams and marketers to more easily determine the productivity of their tradeshow investment.

Another data-related opportunity is onsite data capture, which helps event producers both manage business and more deeply understand customers and their behavior.

“The ongoing question for the industry remains how to implement the technology so it is cost effective, yields quality information, and is acceptable to the attendee who will be tracked and receive onsite smartphone downloads,” the report noted.

Data security and privacy also pose challenges. “Part of the good will and reputation of a show audience rests on the safety of its exhibitor and attendee data,” according to the whitepaper. “The negative public relations of an online rant by hacked exhibitors and attendees could go a long way to injure the reputation of a tradeshow.” On the privacy front, show organizers “will need to communicate how shared data is protected and the value that is received for sharing data, so attendees understand they are, in fact, getting value for their information.”

Physical Security

Also related to the security front is physical security. Strikes, public demonstrations, mass shootings, and public unrest are a growing concern for the industry.

While major show organizers and facilities usually have emergency response policies and practices in place, show producers cannot assume these practices and policies are up to  date and in effect across the entire industry.

“This task force is recommending to the entire exhibition, meetings, and event industry that every tradeshow plan include consistently updated contingency plans for both physical and healthcare emergencies and that these plans be reviewed by the event team with facility management and key local authorities (as necessary) prior to the move-in for each show,” said the report.

Education Offerings

Education is a main part of many tradeshows and events, but often exhibition staff is not trained in adult learning techniques and emerging trends. However, to remain relevant, the industry will need to upgrade its teaching approaches and technologies to accommodate the broad spectrum of changing attendee demographics and learning styles.

“Part of the future of educational programming will be the development and testing of various program formats and financial models,” said the report. “The more traditional pricing and content delivery programming will need to be reevaluated as the techniques and science of delivering content, and related costs, are reevaluated.”

Economic Factors

The task force identified four economic factors that could affect the industry over the next three years:

  1. interest rates being raised by the Federal Reserve Board
  2. a significant stock market correction
  3. increased taxes and/or significant tax policy changes
  4. international banking system issues

“As experienced over the 2008-2015 period, exhibitor marketing budgets and attendee travel budgets are tied to the general level of economic activity and access to business finance sources,” said the report. “While there is a strong predisposition for U.S exhibition industry fortunes to follow the GDP track, there also is an opportunity for the industry and individual shows to grow faster than GDP by offering highly competitive marketing opportunities for both exhibitors and attendees.”

Do you agree with the trends identified in the white paper? What others would you add? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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