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CEIR Research Reveals that Exhibitions Will Remain Strong Into Next Decade


Dallas, TX – A study of exhibition trends released by CEIR at Expo! Expo! in Las Vegas revealed that exhibitions remain a valuable sales and marketing tool in a changing marketplace. The study, The Changing Environment of Exhibitions, also indicated that companies are more selective about the shows they choose based on the quality of a show’s attendees, favorable ROI and positive past performance at the show.

Key findings pointed to opportunities for growth in areas such as digital marketing assistance for exhibitors while threats to growth included rising travel costs and an increase in corporate and business-to-consumer events.

The online survey included responses from 298 executives who make decisions about participating in exhibitions. In all, 14,636 executives were invited to take part.

Responding executives rated exhibitions highly valuable in helping to achieve priority marketing objectives such as:

  • Building or expanding brand awareness (82%);
  • Launching new products (80%);
  • Targeting promotions to specific business sectors (73%);
  • Promoting existing products and services (72%).

The findings reveal that companies are using many marketing, communications and sales tactics as methods for promoting their offerings. Respondents said that business-to-business exhibitions are their No. 2 primary marketing tactic -– right behind corporate web sites — and on par with in-person visits to prospective and existing customers. Responding executives also said they expect to participate in more business exhibitions, which they rank among the most effective tactic for achieving business objectives. At the same time, the majority of them are gearing up to increase their use of social media marketing.

Respondents said uncertain economic times might influence trade show growth over the next decade, but 85% believe their trade show participation will remain the same or increase during that time. Among those who plan to take part in more shows, 41% said exhibits would likely focus on new products and 49% said they expected to devote more money to sponsorships.

The results also clearly demonstrated that organizers must work closely with exhibitors to help exhibitors reach their sales and marketing goals.

Respondents said the ability to see a large number of prospects and customers over a short time (60%) and have face-to-face meetings with a variety of people (50%) were the primary advantages of taking part in an exhibition. But the onus is on the organizer when it comes to exhibitor retention. Roughly 84% said the biggest factor that brings them back is the ability to reach quality attendees while 54% said a positive ROI also influenced their decision.

Conversely, exhibitors are more likely to cancel because of poor quality attendees (72%); poor ROI (70%) or low attendance (62%)

“We are no longer just in the business of bringing visitors to the door; we need to help exhibitors succeed in bringing visitors to their booths,” said Chuck Schwartz, CEM, Chairman of ConvExx.

Reach Chuck Schwartz at (702) 450-7662 or; Nancy Drapeau, CEIR director of research, at (207) 332-9839 or 


Action Items
Based on results from the Changing Environment of Exhibitions study, show organizers might want to consider the following for future shows:

  • Profile existing and prospective exhibitors to assess how your target exhibitor audience compares to overall industry trends.
  • Learn what digital media tactics are used by your prospective exhibitors and attendees. Integrate the most common ones into your shows to help exhibitors achieve their marketing and sales goals.
  • Conduct surveys with attendees and exhibitors to identify the key buyers targeted by exhibitors and the products, services and companies that prospective attendees want to see.
  • Leverage the desire expressed by business executives for in-person meetings by providing a venue conducive to large numbers of face-to-face meetings during the exhibition.
  • Structure event content to help companies meet high-priority sales objectives such as managing existing customer relationships; engaging with key accounts and customers; engaging with prospective customers.

Factors to Watch
There are always wildcards that can affect the success of a trade show. One of those today is a growing dissatisfaction with the state of business travel, according to a recent survey of 3,756 registrants for Vue2011, a virtual conference staged by San Francisco-based On24, a virtual meeting specialist.

Roughly 92% of those registrants said business travel is failing to improve and almost half said it is getting worse. Half of the respondents said travel delays were the worst part of flying and 41% cited security lines as the most onerous part.

When asked for their top complaints about trade shows, respondents cited “boring presentations” and “lost productivity” while away from the office (60% each).

“We don’t suggest that virtual conferences will replace in-person conferences,” said Tricia Heinrich, Senior Director of Strategic Communications for On24, “but we’re seeing that travel is increasingly unpopular.”

Reach Tricia Heinrich at (415) 369-8000 or

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