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Associations review 2011, speculate on 2012

As the tradeshow industry transitions from 2011 to 2012, Exhibit City News interviewed a number of tradeshow associations to find out about how this past year will be remembered. In Part 1, we talked with Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Lew Shomer, executive director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO). Here in part two, ECN interviewed Jim Wurm, executive director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractors Association (EACA), Jeff Provost, executive director of the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA), and Jennifer Palcher-Silliman, director of content and education for the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association (HCEA).


Jim Wurm, EACA
Jim Wurm
What is the most significant thing that happened to the tradeshow industry in 2011?

I think it was the Exhibition Industry Summit in October. This meeting was a good first step in getting all the stakeholders to the table to discuss the current state of the industry and how, together, we can improve the exhibitor’s value proposition.

What was the most important thing that happened that directly affected your membership?
The launch of our new website enabled us to reach a more international audience. We added 20 new members directly from the web ite from countries including the United Kingdon, Belgium, Sweden and China.

What is the most noteworthy thing that your association accomplished throughout the year?
The new EACA web =site includes social media tools, which connect our members like never before.

Did the economy in 2011 improve significantly enough to directly impact the tradeshow industry?
The economy is definitely on the upswing, and our members are seeing it in terms of increased revenues. Many members, however, are still gun shy about adding to their staff.

What developments in 2011 have made you optimistic about 2012?
A great majority of EACA members agree that the economy is on the upswing. And new revenues and profits are a good sign for our industry and for the EACA.

What is the biggest challenge the industry will face in 2012?
While exhibitors increased their spending in 2011, they are still approaching shows with some reservations because they have difficulty managing their budgets. Our industry needs to address these concerns in a meaningful way if we want to continue to grow and prosper.

Jeff Provost, EDPA

provostWhat is the most significant thing that happened to the tradeshow industry in 2011?

Industry wide, I would say it was that EDPA members have been able to build their business back up to the levels they were at before the recession. And in some cases, especially from an international standpoint, our members are even further along in building their business than they were prior to the recession.

What is the most noteworthy thing that your association accomplished throughout the year?
I think that as of 2011, the EDPA has truly become an international organization. That was certainly apparent at the annual conference earlier this year in Las Vegas, where we had 35 different countries represented. Our organization has grown not only domestically over the last few years, but our international chapter is growing more, and I think that we are reaching a point of critical mass.

Did the economy in 2011 improve significantly enough to directly impact the tradeshow industry?
I would say that from the exhibit builders’ perspective, we are back in the game. That is where the growth was. We lost ground from 2007 – 2010, and we have gained it back in 2011. Our member’s shops are busy again and they haven’t been in at least three years.

Overall, how much more active was the tradeshow industry in 2011 versus 2010?
I can measure it just based on my recent discussions with the custom designer/builder. Over the last couple of years, they have simply been trying to keep their shop floors busy. Many of them went from three shifts to two shifts in 2008 and 2009, and then a lot of them went down to one shift in 2010. But now they are back up, running two and three shifts again. That is all the proof I need in terms of how busy they have become. In some cases, they can’t keep up with the orders that are coming in.

What developments in 2011 have made you optimistic about 2012?
There has been a real increase in the area of hybrids and systems. The discussions we had during ACCESS garnered tremendous feedback from participants on this subject. This is a segment of our industry that I think will continue to grow over the next couple of years. The lines between custom exhibits and a hybrid or modular system are continuing to get more blurred. That is where the growth in this industry is coming from. Especially if we are able to build in a couple rentals components that can be swapped in and out depending on the message and the brand. Now you can save a few bucks and pass it on to the client.

What is the biggest challenge the industry will face in 2012?
It is natural that we are all looking out for our own segment of the industry. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the GC, the show organizer, the venue or the exhibitor. In the end, we are all trying to service the brand. Because we all concentrate on our own segment, there are going to be friction points. But we have to figure out, as an industry, how to make it easier for the exhibitor. Instead of setting up hurdles, we should be knocking them down to show the exhibitor, ‘look how easy it is to exhibit here.’ It will be interesting to see how this is addressed at the industry summit in February.

Jennifer Palcher-Silliman, HCEA

hcealogo_copyWhat is the most significant thing that happened to the tradeshow industry in 2011?
For the healthcare convention marketing and exhibitions industry, regulatory and compliance issues have been top of mind this year. In particular, the “Sunshine” provisions in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) have been a major point of interest and concern for our members. The provisions require that items of value given to physicians must be disclosed. This has the potential to significantly impact interactions at conventions.

The industry had been waiting on rules that would give detailed instructions on how to comply with the law since October 1, 2011. A draft version wasn’t released until December 14, 2011. The document will go through a review process, and when that is finished, the law’s provisions officially go into effect. At that point, healthcare companies will be entering into a new era of compliance relating to interactions at meetings.

What was the most important thing that happened that directly affected your membership?
Developments related to the Sunshine provisions in the PPACA were significant. The economy has also been a major factor in 2011, as it has been for everyone. While some reports indicate that certain sectors of the economy are improving, it is important to note that our members are still being asked to work under very tight budgets. Also, there’s a continuing pattern of consolidation in the healthcare manufacturing sector, so our pharmaceutical, medical device and biotech members must always be deft about maneuvering through a tight landscape with fewer resources.

What is the most noteworthy thing that your association accomplished throughout the year?
HCEA has been able to keep its members up-to-date on industry legislative and regulatory issues. Providing actionable content and education is also one of the hallmarks of our organization. Through our regular news alerts, educational events, webinars and website content, we’ve been able to spread the word about important changes and give members resources that can better inform their strategic decision making needs.

Did the economy in 2011 improve significantly enough to directly impact the tradeshow industry?
Healthcare conventions represent a very diverse collection of medical specialties representing nearly 2,000 reported events. When we assesses all reported data for 2011, we’ll have a more definitive benchmark for how the 2011 economy impacted the majority of the industry. But in healthcare, economic impacts can have diverse effects.

Overall, how much more active was the tradeshow industry in 2011 versus 2010?
Healthcare professionals value the face-to-face interaction they experience at medical meetings, and live healthcare conferences are continually named as their favored venues for learning. HCEA analyzes all reported healthcare meeting attendance and exhibit figures at the conclusion of every year. Once this analysis is complete, we’ll share the trend comparisons between 2010 and 2011 with members and the industry.

What developments in 2011 have made you optimistic about 2012?
The bellwether healthcare conventions that typically draw from around the world are still considered the pinnacle events for their respective medical specialties. While the world economy will influence all conventions, medical professionals need to stay vigilant in finding new ways to treat patients and healthcare conventions will continue to be an environment where critical learning takes place.

What is the biggest challenge the industry will face in 2012?
Even if the economy is improving enough to impact attendance at healthcare conventions, doing more with less is a continuing reality for all segments of our membership. Plus, as the details shake out regarding the Sunshine provisions, there is potential for increased costs to be in compliance. In addition, actions such as the executive order from President Obama calling for limits to government employees’ business travel will test the overall meetings industry’s ability to manage perceptions.

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