ECEF 2022 Shines a Positive Light on the Trade Show Industry’s Future

Marlene Goldman, Executive Editor
This year’s Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) held on Global Exhibitions Day, focused on sharing insights into the challenges facing the business events industry, as well as what the future holds for trade shows and exhibitions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the trade show industry returns to face-to-face interactions, the question remains, how will the pandemic permanently change the course of live events and trade shows? This year’s Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., held June 1 on Global Exhibitions Day, focused on sharing insights into the challenges facing the business events industry, as well as what the future holds for trade shows and exhibitions.

There was also even more emphasis at ECEF 2022 on networking than in years past, as 200 event attendees mingled at receptions and between sessions.

“ECEF 2022 had shorter sessions and longer breaks than ECEF 2019 because I knew that after two years of Zooming, we all needed a big dose of face-to-face networking,” Sam Lippman, Producer, ECEF, as well as President and Founder of Lippman Connects, said. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, according to Lippman, for both the extra networking time as well as the for the event speakers. Part of the networking time included visiting the booths at the TechDemo area outside the session room, including audiovisual experts Clarity Experiences, which was the Gold Sponsor of ECEF.

Key Takeaways from ECEF 2022

  1. The trade show and events industry cannot go back to business as usual. There are permanent post-pandemic changes in budgets, staffing, costs and exhibitor expectations that will remain long beyond the after-effects of COVID.
  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) will affect staffing as younger potential employees place a high value on inclusivity.
  3. Sustainability is also a high priority for trade show exhibitors and event attendees.
  4. The need for data is higher than ever, and many ECEF sponsors and other companies are focusing on how to simplify data collection for trade show organizers.
  5. The importance of in-person networking remains strong, as business travel and trade show numbers continue to rebound.

ECEF 2022 Opening Day

Lippman marked ECEF 2022 opening day with a session titled, 5 Key Data Points in 5 Minutes. His first point related to DE&I, which Lippman stressed is an important factor when younger potential employees are seeking jobs and is also vital to companies for enriching their events.

DE&I was a focus of the keynote speech, Business of Belonging – Transformative Events in Extraordinary Times, featuring Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal. Out & Equal works with nearly 800 Fortune 1000 companies worldwide to create inclusive teams and workplaces.

“At each ECEF, my goal is to showcase different points of view and new voices and Erin Uritus’ keynote exceeded my expectations,” Lippman said.

The second challenge according to Lippman relates to event management talent acquisition and retention, which is affecting all aspects of the trade show industry. Fourth on Lippman’s list is world events such as the war in Ukraine.

The fifth issue in Lippman’s presentation involves supply chain and inflation, with skyrocketing costs, delays in shipping and show cancellations and how that leads to an increased pressure on trade show organizers to prove ROI.

Presenter Jeannie Henson, Director of Exhibit Management, Siemens Healthineers North America, focused on pandemic-era event planning in her session. “We do not have the information we need to justify spend,” Henson said. “My job everyday now is to say this show is still worthwhile, let me show you why.”

ECEF’s closing panel, Navigating the New Normal, moderated by Ken Holsinger, Senior Vice President, Data Solutions, Freeman, stressed the need for event management flexibility and innovation in organizing shows.

The afternoon before ECEF 2022, mdg collaborated with UFI and Freeman to produce Rebuilding International Participation. The interactive educational session focused on international attendee acquisition strategy, with practical tips for forming alliances, managing delegations and working with influencers to develop brands internationally.

Though the session covered challenges such as staffing, inflation and sustainability, it also emphasized the positive, namely that 80% of companies say COVID reaffirmed the value of meeting face-to-face.

Reach Sam Lippman at (703) 979-4904 or sam@lippmanconnects.com