Trends, By Default, Shaping Our Future

By Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM
CEIR CEO

The Harris Poll’s John Gerzema, who is the CEO of Harris Insights and Analytics, spoke at last year’s CEIR Predict Conference. His session, Trends Shaping Our Future, was the highest-rated session of the conference. Monitoring trends and being proactive in questioning how emerging trends might impact exhibitions are helpful in developing proactive strategies.

Some of the trends poised to impact trade, and consumer events, are being driven by the Gen Z generation, currently ages 13 to 24, who want and expect frictionless, instant and trackable insta-convenience; they expect same-day responses from companies. Cashless payments using mobile phones is expected to move fast. Corporate social responsibility is a strong trend, as well as a company being authentic to its brand, reflecting its customer base.

Here are just a few of the trends Gerzema spoke about and exhibition organizers should be focused on today:

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been on our radar for a couple of years now. Organizers and service providers alike should have a CSR statement and activating CSR initiatives by now. Recycling and upcycling are equally important. There is a lot of waste in the supply chain for the exhibition industry. Organizers and suppliers of exhibitions should examine the waste their exhibitions generate. Identify what can be donated to local charities or repurposed for future events. CSR is not just an initiative that appeals to the Gen Z generation – it is the right thing to do.
  2. In a time when data privacy is becoming increasingly important, how do exhibition organizers balance the need for more data to create engaging experiences and compliance with data privacy laws? To this end, focus on what attendees want and value, as your guiding principles. In a Harris Insights study, just over 50 percent of Americans indicated they would share data for personalized services and products.
  3. People are busier today than ever before. They are more selective with how they spend their dollars and use their scarce time. Rather than buy a Volvo, they may subscribe to one. Americans are choosing to watch television based on how much time they have, instead of what the content is. Gerzema referred to this as The Nibble Economy and explained brands are adjusting accordingly. Think about how to break down shows into bits and pieces, or “snackable” opportunities for attendees and exhibitors to align with this trend.
  4. The Food Sector is booming as evidenced in the 2019 CEIR Index Report, 5.4% growth in 2018 and forecasted growth of 4% in 2019. In a 2019 Harris Poll, 29 percent of Americans are concerned about genetically modified ingredients, with 24 percent concerned about animal welfare and another 24 percent want transparency about how their food is produced. We have all either held events, or attended one, where the food or the food service was lacking. Know your audience and their food preferences, and work with venues when developing menus. Surprise and delight participants. Share with them information about the food being served.
  5. Diversity and Inclusion is an important issue for the exhibitions industry. Organizations should by now have a plan for ensuring inclusion in their events. Is your speaker line-up mostly white, mostly male or female, lacking cultural diversity, primarily middle age? If so, be intentional about making the event more diverse and inclusive. This topic is important to the younger generation. And, there may be growth opportunities in diversifying your audience.

Society is in a hyper-personalization stage, with no end in sight. As ways to engage digitally, analytics will continue to support an ever more refined experience for the individual, with a growing intolerance for anything that does not support this “want.” This impacts the exhibition industry, how events are being produced and the content being delivered.

In the next CEIR newsletter, we will focus on the other trends John Gerzema described. These trends and more will be discussed at the CEIR Predict Conference, 21-22 September 2020 at the MGM National Harbor outside of Washington D.C.

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