CEIR President & CEO Reflects on Predict 2014 – Insights Point to Positive Outlook for the Industry

By Brian Casey, CEM

There has always been a need by all of us to try and understand what the future holds. We live it every day with predictions on the weather, future of stocks, the economy and of course, world politics.

Last week, a high concentration of thought leaders in the exhibition industry convened in Chicago for the 4th annual Predict Conference. It was an exciting event that brought a focus on our industry unlike any other industry event. Hosted by CNBC’s Ron Insana, CEIR provided on an overview of where the macro economy is going as well as a perspective of its impact on our industry. In general, the outlook is quite good and rather positive.

Ryan Sweet, Economist for Moody’s Analytics, kicked off the program by providing great insight into the near term outlook on our economy. With consumer spending and housing improving, future GDP is expected to exceed 3% in 2015. Energy production in the U.S. is generating reserves allowing us to be less dependent on foreign oil, which in the near term, may bring down oil prices. We do, however, need the housing market to grow faster. Ryan pointed out that the younger generation is either living at home longer or making the choice of renting. The sooner parents kick them out of the house he commented, the better for our economy!

More positive news was also reflected in CEIR’s outlook and predictions on our own industry. Since the launch of the CEIR Census and Index in 2000, CEIR has been able to track, contrast and compare the performance of the exhibition industry. CEIR has also been able to develop a predictive model based on the study of past performance, and map that data using key metrics such as GDP and Non Farm Payroll – both proven indicators towards our future performance. This was the original framework for the CEIR Predict Conference and why it is so well regarded.

Despite a soft first quarter performance in GDP, the remainder of this year appears to be stronger, with projected growth delivering just under 2% growth for the industry. Of the four key metrics CEIR measures – Net Square Footage, Revenue, Attendance and Number of Exhibitors -attendance is by far showing the strongest performance. This is good news since attendance has a positive impact on the other three metrics and is typically a leading indicator.

This year, The Freeman Companies sponsored and curated the content of presentations that were facilitated by Ron Insana. CEIR Predict offered insights by expert industry panel members on eight of the 14 sectors CEIR tracks. Each sector presentation was led by my overview of how these sectors have performed over the years, and a brief outlook on what the data is telling us on their future. Almost all sectors are quite positive although as you can imagine, some maintain an outlook that is better than others. The content was rich, fast moving and everyone seemed to walk away with an enlightened outlook from numerous perspectives. It was a fast-paced day that delivered a unique experience to many of the CEOs in the room.

This year’s Predict title sponsor, Choose Chicago, did an outstanding job in helping us make a renewed difference for all the attendees that participated. Without question, GES and Visit Houston, longtime supporters of CEIR and Predict, also made significant contributions to the event. We could not have presented such a great experience without all of our sponsors.

While we have a fairly good idea of our future direction, it certainly is not an exact science. Without tools like the Census and Index, however, we have no chance of gaining a perspective on where we might be heading. Keep your eyes out for more information on not only this past Predict Conference, but next year’s conference scheduled for 17 September, 2015 in Chicago. I can say for certain, it gets better every year and next year will be a real winner and fruitful for those that invest and attend.

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