The Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) held its annual ESCA Summer Educational Conference June 28-July 1 at the Resort at Squaw Creek in California. Brian Casey, president and CEO, Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) delivered a positive “State of the Industry” address.
Indexing the performance of the exhibition industry across 14 key sectors, Casey reported positive growth in the areas of net square footage, number of exhibitors and attendees, and real revenue. Stating that the forecast of the industry closely follows the national gross domestic product (GDP), a leading indicator on the health of tradeshows and exhibitions, the provider of industry-leading research saw an upward trend for 2015.
While the GDP was seemingly lackluster in the first quarter of the year due to inclement weather, Casey shared that the exhibition industry performed 4.6 percent above the GDP when considering the increase in net square footage, 4.1 percent; exhibitors, 3.3 percent; attendees, 3.7 percent; and real revenue, 7.3 percent.
In the last CEIR Census in 2010, the U.S. reported over 9,000 B2B exhibitions. The census also tracked activity in Mexico and Canada, bringing the total up to 14,541 and reporting B2B direct and indirect contributions to the GDP in 2014 at $71.3 billion.
Casey emphasized the importance of associations to the growth of the industry with 64 percent owning and largely operating the top 250 B2B events in North America. According to Casey, major associations have strong balance sheets with cash available to deploy on business development and better opportunity to interact year-round with industry leaders and members. He cautioned, however, that many associations focused much of their efforts on membership and staff heavily for operations instead of strategizing.
Roughly 44 percent of CMO exhibitors also produce their own “event mix” rather than strictly exhibition strategies, Casey indicated.
Another major trend is the growth of smaller, more targeted shows. Such shows are developing more intimate experiences in order to stay relevant to younger generations of attendees. To understand and reach this group of attendees, studies showed that email is preferred over social media as a form of word of mouth from a trusted source. Younger generations also desire knowledgeable booth staff and physical interactions on the show floor.
Finally, CEIR research showed a 98 percent growth in exhibition space in the U.S. and Canada from 47.3 million square feet in 1989 to 93.5 million square feet in 2013. With such positive statistics, the exhibition industry is poised to continue its upward progression in the coming year.