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

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.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same – Even for Millennials Reply

By Warwick Davies, Principal, The Event Mechanic!

Who knew? While many assume that the younger generation has gone totally digital and social media focused, some new research suggests that you still need to include some traditional elements if you want your event to be successful. It seems that Millennials actually prefer some of the 20th century communications tools, despite our efforts to incorporate every newfangled technology into our conferences and trade shows.

This was part of the findings in the 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study, a recently-released survey of 300 young professionals conducted by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Commissioned by the Society of Independent Show Organizers, the survey included attendees between the ages of 23 and 40 years old who had attended a B2B exhibition during the past two years.

Most importantly, the survey affirmed that exhibitions remain an important part of the marketing mix. In the B2B world, trade shows and conferences are still a good place to learn about new products or make a purchase decision. As to deciding whether to attend a particular event, email marketing remains an important component, arguably the most important component. Though there’s been a big push for social media, emails from event organizers represent the most trusted (37 percent of the survey population) and most used (58 percent) information sources; while just 13 percent used social media from show organizers as their primary source of information. So while it makes sense to pay attention to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other online venues, don’t lose sight of the role that traditional email can have on your event’s attendance numbers.

Once they’re on site, even though attendees may spend a lot of time on their smartphones, don’t presume that they’ll want to plan their event schedule that way. Printed show guides and conference agendas remain the preferred choice for 59 percent of the survey respondents. Only 26 percent indicated that they relied on a mobile app provided by the event host.

Maybe this means that it’s time to dust off our old marketing books about how to attract and serve an audience. Yes, the world is changing, but perhaps it’s also true that the more things change (in terms of social media and digital marketing tactics), the more some things will remain the same – even for Millennials.

CLICK HERE to download the full 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study.

Does Your Show Mobile App Deliver Value that Prompts Attendees to Use It? 1

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

In the recently released CEIR report, 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study, sponsored by the Society of Independent Show Organizers, it is revealed that only a minority of young professionals, 26 percent, use a mobile app version of an exhibition program to plan and stay on schedule. These results are a big surprise. The adoption rate among young professionals is only two percent higher than what is recorded in the study looking at attendee needs and preferences in general, What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions.

And for non-users, the main reason isn’t because an app wasn’t available, only 21 percent say that is the reason. Instead more non-users either explain they prefer the paper version or dislike pulling down an app for a one time use or for this purpose in particular.

So, is this the final answer for mobile apps in the exhibition industry? I don’t think so. Mobile apps are relatively new to the exhibition industry scene. Though results suggest that to justify the investment in a mobile app, efforts are needed, perhaps user research, to help determine how to modify content in a way that makes an exhibition mobile app a “must use” resource when attending.

Or perhaps, if mobile apps over time are not used by enough attendees at a given event, is there another way to offer a digital version of an exhibition program that a majority of attendees will pull down and use actively when visiting? And is there content that will help drive content post-show?

In the short-term, why dismiss the power of the paper exhibition program? Are organizers abandoning too soon an option that offers ancillary revenue for their events? Recently in a session at the SISO Executive Leadership Conference in Atlantic City, Dan Goldstein, Director of Marketing & Communications at Integrated Systems Europe explained they have a printed show program; coupled with a digital edition that is highly successful in generating attendance, use on premise and sponsorship dollars.

Interestingly, at the time I was conducting the analysis for the young professionals study CEIR just released, I fell upon the following article from Fast Company. This article points to a video presentation at Google’s I/O conference, [where] Tomer Sharon, Google Search User Experience Researcher, broke down the age-old question: ‘Why is nobody using my app?’.

Tomer Sharon provides an outstanding overview on the best research approaches for mobile app development and testing. To access the article and video, visit:


Planning for the Future Reply

By Mary Tucker, CEIR Blog Manager

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

Predict : CEIR’s Annual Exhibition Industry Outlook Conference will be held in three weeks at the Intercontinental Hotel Chicago, bringing together the exhibition industry’s best and brightest for a look at what the future holds and how to plan accordingly. Hosted by financial journalist Ron Insana and featuring keynote speakers Ryan Sweet and Marina Gorbis, more than 20 experts will discuss current and future trends applying to each industry sector as identified in CEIR’s annual Index Report.

The business market is constantly changing, which is what brings C-level executives to this one-day event. What we do know from recent data published in the 2014 CEIR Index Report this past March is this:

  • U.S. economic growth in 2013 slowed to only 1.9% compared to 2.8% in 2012.
  • Excluding the government, the economy expanded over 4.0% at an annual rate during the second half of 2013.
  • The consumer sector saw steady growth as personal consumption grew by 2.0% in the year, down only slightly from 2.2% in 2012.
  • In line with expectations explained in the 2012 CEIR Index Report, the CEIR Total Index increased by a modest 1.0% for 2013. Each metric saw positive growth. Net square feet (NSF) grew 0.8%, the number of exhibitors increased 0.5%, the number of attendees increased 2.0%, and real revenues grew 0.9%. The growth in number of attendees outpaced other metrics, and it continues a strong trend since the end of the recession in 2009.

While the economy really does constitute the bottom line, there are plenty of other considerations that go into creating an effective strategic plan. CEIR’s research provides an ongoing stream of information that can be used in planning and marketing your exhibition, such as:

If you can attend Predict on 11 September, you will experience a fast-paced, highly interactive program specifically designed for C-level strategists. But if Predict is not in your immediate future, CEIR has plenty of relevant, cutting-edge data available to assist in your planning, with plenty more on the way.

When Innovating – Protect and Enhance Valued Aspects of the F2F Marketing Experience Reply

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC
CEIR Research Director

Synergistic Power of Exhibitions GraphicI just returned from SISO’s Executive Leadership Conference that took place this week in Atlantic City. The venue, Revel, and the city did a wonderful job hosting this dynamic event. It was a privilege to be part of the conference program, where I was able to share key findings from the recently released CEIR report sponsored by SISO, the 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study. It was a pleasure to share the stage with leading researchers in the industry, and discuss lessons learned on how exhibition organizers can use research effectively for existing events as well as evaluate prospective opportunities.

The focus of this event brought different panelists to the stage who engaged in a variety of topics, yet a consistent theme developed of encouraging organizers in the room to think of ways to transform their businesses and to innovate, rather than stagnate, in efforts to maintain and grow their events.

This is an excellent call to action. However, with this focus that every exhibition organizer should be striving toward, I also encourage organizers to maintain focus. Don’t erode the core, intrinsic value of business-to-business exhibitions – the power and value of face-to-face interactions – with people and product. Innovate to enhance this core value, not diminish it. Innovation should magnify the power of a live event that brings people and product together in powerful and impactful ways that digital cannot.

CEIR research has shown that attendees and exhibitors identify exhibitions as the top ranked face-to-face setting of choice. It is number one for attendees and for exhibitors, it is tied for the top rank with in-person sales visits.

As discussed in the Digital Playbook, digital is a great medium to attract and promote an event. For those unable to attend, it offers a chance to peek in and view what is made available online. But it does not deliver the full experience of being there. And digital is a wonderful way to magnify the effect of content generated at an exhibition, a great opportunity to boost media impressions for the exhibition and its exhibitors, and an effective medium for engaging with participants throughout the year. But again, it’s important to keep one’s eye on the ball. The nexus – the core value of a physical event – is just that, the people in the room and the products that are being showcased.

Being at a well-produced event with like-minded individuals and peers, as well as meeting old colleagues and establishing connections with new ones is a precious opportunity. It sharpens the skills of those who attend, and arms them with ideas and potential solutions for current business challenges along with prospective products that can give their organizations a competitive edge. It also offers the chance to experience products showcased on an exhibition floor: see how they work, interact with the product and have discussions with exhibit staff that can answer questions on-the-spot, as well as engage with product users that can share their organization’s experience with the product or challenges/solutions they too are striving to resolve. As documented in What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions, these interactions are highly valued by attendees in general. Young professional attendees also consider these interactions a key reason to attend exhibitions, as is documented in the report CEIR released this week.

So when innovating, how can this core value be enhanced or how can detractors be minimized or eliminated? Isn’t this what iPad strove to do? In order to make the ‘experience’ of the iPad such that any technical glitches were minimized, Apple strove to offer a product where connection between the user and content was as easy and seamless as possible.

If you are an organizer, what about this analogy applies to your event? How can you:

  • Eliminate logistical glitches that can snag attendees on the show floor or get in the way of the exhibit floor experience?
  • Eliminate logistical glitches that make exhibiting difficult?
  • What innovations can ramp up the power of the attendee or exhibitor experience?
  • What settings can you offer to maximize the interactions between attendees and exhibitors, and across all types of participants?
  • Besides exhibit booths, what other settings can you create that enable attendees to interact and/or test drive products on the exhibition floor? Is a product demonstration area feasible?

As a researcher, I can keep listing questions with the ultimate aim of stimulating thought on areas meriting consideration for innovation. If you are an organizer, feel free add to the list and stimulate discussion. Your customers and event teams likely have ideas worth considering. As another CEIR blog’s message articulates, Creativity Leads to Engagement. Let the creativity and innovation flow! Though in doing so, don’t forget to keep your eye on the ball!

The Data Keeps Coming for Young Professionals Reply

By Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

CEIR and SISO will be releasing a new study this week, 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study, that continues to look at the young professional attendee. This study provides a comprehensive overview of the latest insights on what young attendee business professionals are looking to experience when attending a business-to-business exhibition for their jobs as well as how they find out and decide which exhibitions to attend.

The report provides a profile of young professionals by their career attitudes, extent of participation in exhibitions, and motivations for attending and not attending. It also includes preferred communication methods with organizers for pre-event, onsite and post-event communications. While many of the findings fall in line with what is expected, there are a few surprises.

Keep an eye out for the release of 2014 Young Professional Attendee Needs and Preferences Study – breaking details can be found at www.ceir.org.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder – Immersive Experiences that Connect Reply

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Director of Research, CEIR

Allie Shaughnessy, dressed as Marvel Comics' character Mystique, attends Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego, California

Comic Con San Diego 2014, Reuters

Just a couple of weeks ago, Comic-Con International 2014 took place in San Diego. During that event, mass media channels of all kinds – broadcast tv, cable tv, multiple social media outlets, print and digital press – were buzzing with images and stories from that event, a veritable candy store of branding impressions. Comic book writers, artists, filmmakers and lots of other players convened with their most passionate consumers, those who take the time to travel to this event from near and far and many who invest time and dollars to become their beloved characters. A community, gathered under one roof, celebrating the industry, seeing what’s new and hot, pre-release promotions of films, a chance to get an autograph from one’s favorite star or even better, getting a selfie with someone famous! The opportunities are endless, and to commune with other like-minded individuals, there’s nothing like it.

This particular franchise of a consumer event, its genesis in San Diego and now having multiplied in a number of metro areas is quite incredible, very flashy and exciting for the consumers that love the genres of entertainment that they celebrate. Some of the pictures of attendees dressed in their favorite comic character costumes may prompt one to scratch one’s head and ask, ‘Why?’ Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder, those individuals are living their dreams, having their memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. Isn’t that what counts?

Isn’t it also the case for business-to-business exhibitions? These are in-person, live events that bring a community together, a venue to convene buyers and sellers of an industry to celebrate the community, see what is new and hot trend-wise and product-wise, a chance to hear from leading experts, a time to convene with likeminded individuals, peers, colleagues, to learn and share with each other. It is a very powerful marketing medium for brand marketers that use it well. And when an event or exhibitor ties event content into integrated marketing efforts, the brand reach and exposure can be quite powerful. Along with the brand exposure, it feeds the essential lead pipeline for organizer and exhibitor, capturing new leads, nurturing existing ones and closing sales for those ready to pull the trigger.

All industries aren’t that flashy, there are a few that I can think of that are and penetrate mass media channels, Consumer Electronic Show and E3 Expo come to mind. Though mass media isn’t penetrated as extensively by NAMM’s annual event, certainly makes a splash with its core audience and does an amazing job bringing the music industry together. There are so many others, I could go on…

So, for organizers and brand marketers alike, what about your approach can be ramped up to give players a chance to immerse themselves, have impactful experiences in a way that makes sense for your industry and will create buzz in your trade media and social media outlets of your participants? Who are the ‘rock stars’ of your industry that attendees are longing to meet? If you’re a brand marketer, who are the people behind the product that would exhilarate attendees to hear from and maybe even meet in person? Is there a team behind a new product launch that can become the ‘rock stars,’ a personification of the product? Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is the ‘beauty’ that sparks passion in your target attendee audience base? What can you do to bring that to life and give attendees a chance to experience it, a chance to have an impactful, memorable visit?

Here a few CEIR resources that can help you in focusing your exhibition or exhibit to what business-to-business exhibitions hope to experience:

What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions
AMA Educator Conf – Highlights of Key Value of Exhibitions to Attendees

If you have a minute, take a look at a recently released report on Organizer Best Practices to Attract and Retain Young Professionals. This report includes 11 case studies.

Also, here is a resource on what organizers and brand marketers are doing today to integrate digital media into their exhibition marketing:

Digital Playbook (this one is free)

Visit https://www.google.com/search?q=comic+con+2014+photos&client=firefox-a&hs=597&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=6EPhU-mZOouWyASXxIC4Bg&ved=0CCEQsAQ&biw=1392&bih=822 to view photos from Comic-Con 2014 events.

How to Find the CEIR Research You Need Reply

By Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

Bookmark this post! CEIR’s extensive library offers a plethora of information about exhibition marketing and the value of face-to-face interaction. So much so in fact, that you may ask yourself where to start when looking for CEIR research. What is a POE 14.01 or an AC39.14? Believe it or not, these letters and numbers actually mean something. They represent a series that has its own area of focus, so you can know where to go depending on what type of information you are seeking. But even if you don’t know what series a report may fall under, the CEIR website offers a search tool using key words to search all CEIR reports.

CEIR Library GraphicHere’s a break down of the various categories of CEIR reports:

Power of Exhibitions (PE): Reports detailing decision-makers’ perceptions on the value of exhibitions in the purchasing cycle; focusing on maximizing the role of exhibitions in the marketing mix; discussing how to attract young professionals to exhibitions.

Face-to-Face Marketing Study (F2F): Powerful reminders of why personal interaction in the business world is absolutely critical.

Guru Report Series (G): Simple guides written by industry experts to help exhibiting companies achieve better results and gain value from exhibition participation.

Marketing/Communications (MC): Strategies for effective exhibit marketing.

Sales/Measuring Return (SM): Specific exhibition-related objectives are analyzed and compared to other media.

Attendee/Exhibitor Characteristics (AC/EC): Profiles of exhibition participants.

International Reports (IN): Methods to attract international exhibitors and attendees alike to U.S. shows.

Industry Tools (IT): Exhibition industry market measurements, growth projections and other future insights.

Resource Center Special Reports (RCSR): Focused reports covering a wide variety of industry-related topics.

Influential and Trusted Speaker Line-Up Announced for CEIR Predict Reply

By Mary Tucker
CEIR Blog Manager

2014 CEIR Predict LogoOn 11 September 2014 at the Intercontinental Hotel Chicago, the exhibition industry’s top strategists and influencers will convene for CEIR Predict, a one-day, highly intensive, highly interactive program that takes a hard look at what the industry can expect through 2016.

In addition to a new, journalistic approach (see 2014 CEIR Predict Takes on New, High Energy Format) and cutting-edge keynote presentation (see 2014 CEIR Predict Adds Marina Gorbis to Speakers List), CEIR is pulling from industry insiders to deliver relevant, insightful information.

So far, 19 industry heavy-hitters have been added to the roster for this not-to-be-missed event:

  • Doug Emslie, Group Managing Director, Tarsus Group plc
  • Peter M. Goldstone, Chief Executive Officer, Hanley Wood LLC
  • Marina Gorbis, Executive Director, Institute for the Future (IFTF)
  • Kerry Gumas, President and Chief Executive Officer, Questex Media Group LLC
  • Kevin Higgins, President and Chief Operating Officer, Hart Energy
  • Jack Holmes, President, UPS Freight
  • Debbie Holton, Director, North American Events and Industry Strategy, Society of Manufacturing Engineers
  • Gerald M. Howard, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Home Builders
  • Wilma Jordan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc.
  • H. Stephen Lieber, CAE, President and CEO, HIMSS
  • Carol McGury, Executive Vice President – Event and Education Services, SmithBucklin Corporation
  • Marco Pardi, President, UBM Tech Events
  • Art Paredes, Senior Director of Global Expositions, Semiconductor Equipment & Materials International (SEMI)
  • Gene Sanders, Senior Vice President, Trade Shows, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association
  • Sally Shankland, CEO, UBM Connect
  • Matt Shay, President & CEO, National Retail Federation
  • Ryan Sweet, Senior Economist, Moody’s Analytics
  • Steve Szakaly, Chief Economist, National Automobile Dealers Association
  • Eric Wulf, CEO, International Carwash Association

Predict: CEIR’s Annual Exhibition Industry Outlook Conference will engage attendees by providing a forecast for the CEIR Index’s 14 industry sectors for the remainder of this year and through 2016 based on the 2014 CEIR Index Report: 2013 Results.

Complete profiles of each speaker and registration information can be found on the Predict website at www.ceir.org/predict.

Give Attendees Product Information in the Format They Want! Reply

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

Today, there are movements advocating the elimination of paper entirely from the business-to-business exhibition floor and those advocating the virtues of all things digital. Though when it comes to attendee preferences, what do they want? Well, research suggests that one size does NOT fit all. Providing paper only, post-email follow-up only, USB’s etc. isn’t necessarily going to make every visitor happy.

How-Exhibitors-Share-Product-Info-GraphThe figure above from CEIR’s Exhibitor Product Information Sharing Practices suggests offering attendees a mix of options to collect product information is wise. These results indicate that a substantial percentage of attendees in general still want paper. That result doesn’t mean that large reams of paper need to be made available as an information giveaway in a booth. Though it does suggest the wisdom of offering some kind of paper collateral piece to give to attendees who would like this option, a piece that will remind them of their visit to a booth, perhaps a postcard or other lower cost item with the key features and benefits of products showcased at the event, pointing them to a URL to access more information or the contact person to reach out to for more information. There are creative ways to satisfy the need for a takeaway item while minimizing collateral expenses and avoiding the exhibition floor trashcan.

Even in the Digital Playbook, it was uncovered that traditional tactics were being reduced, not eliminated from exhibition marketing efforts. One of the most mentioned traditional tactics being reduced is paper collateral. Though again, it’s a reduction, not an elimination. One respondent in this study noted that the flashier, more expensive paper collateral was reserved for meetings aimed to impress a prospective client. So higher-cost collateral pieces can remain behind a counter for the highly-qualified prospects who want that information piece.

Other options do satisfy substantial minorities of attendees, with post-event emails or mailing a printed brochure to them after the exhibition.

Another issue to consider is how effective is each information-sharing option in supporting an organization’s overall objectives for exhibiting? Some methods perform better than others. To find out which options are most effective, take a moment to download the report available at: Exhibitor Product Information Sharing Practices.