December Shows Reflected Upward Mobility
Oceanside, CA – The month of December wrapped up a year in which predictions of a frustratingly slow economic recovery were right on the money. In any slowdown, attendee participation generally reflects the most vulnerability, and December held true to form, eking out only a 0.9% growth in attendance for the month of December. Exhibitor growth and net square footage bucked economic trends and jumped 3.3% and 3.1% respectively, reflecting a position of strength and offering a glimmer of hope that trade shows would continue on that path in 2013.
Q4 was disappointing, with lackluster growth in all three metrics. Net square feet was the growth leader at 2.1% but that was nothing to write home about. Exhibitor growth disappointed with a 0.9% increase, and attendance growth came in at a sluggish 1.3%.
Full-year performance was so so. Net square footage rose 2.4%, exhibitor growth was a weak 1.5%, and attendance outshined both with a 2.9% growth. What does 2013 have in store for the trade show industry? TSE’s Exposition Forecasting Board has some interesting insights. And 150 shows managed to rise above the fray, growing at least seven times the average. Trade Show Executive and more than 20 sponsors will honor this elite group — 50 in each metric — at the Fastest 50 Awards & Summit at the Swissôtel in Chicago May 8-10.
A Closer Look at December
There were 13 trade shows included in TSE’s December Dashboard, only three of which were 100,000 nsf or larger. Just two shows — POWER-GEN International and the International WorkBoat Show — were large enough to be on the TSE Gold 100 rankings of largest U.S. trade shows. One show, The Running Event in Austin, TX — made the TSE Fastest 50; however, its dizzying 88% reported increase in exhibit space was too rich to be included in the adjusted totals for the Dashboard.
The adjusted totals for December (which excludes shows without 2011 metrics) reflected 1,092,154 nsf of exhibit space plus 4,780 exhibitors and 104,957 attendees. That worked out to 91,013 nsf per show. Exhibitors averaged 398 per show and attendance averaged 8,746.
The largest show surveyed for the Dashboard was POWER-GEN International, which enjoyed a 3.9% increase in exhibit space to 382,300 nsf. Attendance in Orlando took a 6.1% jump to a record 21,570 and the number of exhibitors grew 6.0% to 1,327.
PennWell Corp. has grown POWER-GEN into a show that encompasses all aspects of electricity generation. The show is actually four co-located events. Along with POWER-GEN proper, the agenda included Renewable Energy World North America Conference & Expo, NUCLEAR POWER International and the Financial Forum, a specialized networking and educational event for corporate level project developer and financial types.
“We are extremely pleased with the success of POWER-GEN International and the co-located events,” said Richard Baker, senior vice president of the PennWell Power Group. “The momentum seen by these four events underscores the importance of such a platform to the industry. It also reaffirms the growth in the power generation sector.”
PennWell has also parlayed the synergy between its trade show and industry publication Power Engineering into an enticing draw for advertisers. Regular advertisers in Power Engineering received a $4 per square foot discount on booth space for 2013; however, exhibitors were encouraged to book quickly since the rates went up in mid January.
- The Running Event. More exhibitors and larger booths ran up the totals for the sporting goods show held in Austin, TX. Formula4Media said many of the 2012 exhibitors booked more space for the introduction of the latest in shoes, attire and other products for serious runners. Exhibit space reached 94,000 nsf, a whopping 88% jump from the 50,000 nsf in 2011. Exhibitors increased by 18% to 295 and attendance grew 25.1% to 2,126. Show managers said The Running Event has been gaining stature overseas after being primarily a U.S. show. The evidence was in the special appearances made by eight international stars on the running scene.
- American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting is one of the premier science meetings in the U.S. The 2012 show did not disappoint, growing its exhibit space 17.5% to 42,840 nsf and its exhibitor roster 17.2% to 272. Attendance moved up 4.4% to 24,221. The AGU counted 94 new exhibitors and also hosted a briefing on NASA’s Mars rover project that was open to the public.
- International WorkBoat Show set records in all three metrics. Exhibit space at the Gold 100 event in New Orleans popped 9.6% higher to 218,395 nsf while exhibitors grew 6.5% to 924 and attendance increased 5.8% to 14,788. Diversified Business Communications said the consistently high quality of the attendees over the years has been a positive draw for exhibitors.
- National Athletic Directors Conference & Exhibit Show enjoyed a 23.5% gain in attendance to 2,100. The conference portion of the event included plenty of material on the timely topic of athletic concussions and head injuries. That may have driven attendance, but exhibitors were in San Antonio to court the majority of attendees who arrived with purchasing power authorized by their school districts. The number of exhibitors grew 10.5% to 210. Exhibit space was unchanged from 2011 at 60,000 nsf.
The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) takes advantage of the light industry calendar in December to hold its education, networking and exhibition extravaganza in the form of Expo! Expo!
The annual meeting and trade show for the trade show industry was unfortunately down in all three metrics. Unaudited attendance figures, in fact, showed the crowd was down (10.6)% at 2,208. Exhibit space dipped (2.7)% to 36,600 nsf and exhibitor count declined (4.1)% to 255.
The socializing and networking events were their usual smashing successes, and IAEE for the first time partnered with Convention News Television and bXb Online to provide ample online coverage of the proceedings to members who could not make it to Orlando.
“This was my first Expo! Expo! as IAEE president and I could not be more pleased with the feedback I received,” said David DuBois, who assumed the office in 2012. “We have a busy year ahead of us as we pursue results-driven strategies to continue engaging our members and growing our educational offerings.”
The next Expo! Expo! takes place December 10-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. More than 70% of the available exhibit space was expected to be sold in the online space draw February 12-13, IAEE said.
Expo! Expo! was one of three Dashboard shows held in Orlando in December. Along with POWER-GEN International and the 24th Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Healthcare, Orlando hosted 436,100 nsf of exhibit space. New Orleans was in second place with the International WorkBoat Show and its 218,395 nsf. Atlanta placed third with the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and its 116,515 nsf.
The New Year began in its usual big way with the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The CES enjoys a high profile and is often considered a leading indicator for trade show growth for the upcoming year. The TSE Dashboard next month will provide the results for CES as well as The International Builders Show, The NAMM Show, SHOT Show and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
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