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Industry Professionals Share Their Takeaways from EXHIBITORLIVE


CHICAGO — EXHIBITORLIVE took place at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Feb. 25-28, bringing together the trade show and business event industry for four days of educational sessions and workshops, networking events, and building and strengthening business connections.

At the 2024 edition, attendance was up more than 20% from 2023, and the number and quality of buyers was up more than 30% from last year. Already, 65% of the show floor for 2025 has been reserved, signaling the strong success of the 2024 edition.

“The EXHIBITORLIVE show and education conference exceeded my and our expectations,” said David DuBois, CMP-Fellow, CAE-FASAE, CTA, CEO, President and Publisher at Exhibitor Group, the producer of EXHIBITORLIVE. “Considered by many as a “rebuild” since the end of the pandemic, we have received a lot of accolades for the quality of the attendees and buyers, as well as the excellent educational offerings that took place. The Exhibitor Group continues to plan and execute outstanding educational and commerce opportunities for the exhibitions and events industry. Our Exhibitor Magazine, CTSM program, EXHIBITORLIVE and Fast Track Education Week programs will be enhanced going forward.”

Trade Show Executive checked in with some industry professionals who attended EXHIBITORLIVE to find out what their big takeaways and observations were from the event.

Jim Kelley, Vice President, Marketing and Industry Relations at Fern:

“The recent EXHIBITORLIVE event in Nashville left us with some great insights and takeaways about the state of the industry.

“First, the energy at the event validated the importance of face-to-face engagement to build professional communities, facilitate commerce, and deliver meaningful and impactful content. All of the above happens at the depth and nuanced levels when people are in the same room.

“Second, technology is no longer something on the fringe of the exhibit industry; it is a fully integrated component of the industry. Be it a multimedia display to display general marketing messaging and content, the use of technology to facilitate interactive and fun engagement of attendees, or the use of AI to quantify the number of visitors, their engagement duration, or emotional sentiment while in the booth. AI is the most exciting in that it allows companies to separate what they think from what they know by tracking booth metrics, allowing for the aggregation and analysis of data over time. This data will enable exhibit designers and managers to optimize booth environments to maximize engagement and effectively meet their event objectives.

“The final takeaway concerns the event’s business side and the Exhibitor Group’s evident commitment to EXHIBITORLIVE. At the core of everything we do as an industry is its people. Mark Johnson has made a significant commitment to ‘human capital’ and is bringing on board a great mix of talent and experience to complement that existing core team. It was evident that there is a deep commitment on behalf of the Exhibitor Group to create a professional community for corporate exhibit managers and event marketers.”

Related. Strong Start to 2024 Marked by Successful Industry Advocacy Efforts 

Photo of Julie Kagy, ESCA's new executive director

Julie Kagy, CEM, Executive Director, Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA):

“My first takeaway is that business is back and growing. Connecting with numerous contacts and meeting new industry professionals highlighted the excitement and optimism for the future of the event industry.

“Secondly, networking is key because engaging with peers provides valuable insights into the current state of the industry, emerging opportunities and potential challenges.

“Collaboration is crucial; recognizing the importance of collaboration and working together to drive growth and innovation within the events industry is needed to drive us forward.

“Another key takeaway is there is a lot of value in direct feedback from exhibitors. Engaging with exhibitors directly offered valuable perspectives on their concerns, optimism and opportunities for improvement.

“Lastly, innovation is driving the future. Witnessing the latest trends and innovative solutions showcased at EXHIBITORLIVE emphasized the importance of embracing innovation to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of the industry.”

Robyn Davis, CPTD, CEM, Trade Show Trainer/Consultant and Owner, Exhibitors WINH LLC:

“In a workshop I facilitated, I observed that one of the biggest differences between exhibitors who have demonstrated success in working with their internal teams, and those who haven’t, comes down to the concept of consequences — not how to identify what will/should happen, but how to confidently assert those consequences to their executives (influencing the right decisions) and enforce them with their booth staff (leading a productive team).

“In a roundtable I facilitated, I observed that, although many exhibitors had great experience and ideas/examples to share, they had a hard time pinpointing where their expertise came from (beyond trial and error) and, more importantly, asserting that they are, in fact, experts for their companies and among their peers. This shows me we need to do more to empower exhibitors with not only skills, but also confidence.

“Throughout this event, I observed a growing disconnect between exhibitors who feel supported by their organizers and those who don’t. The differences were striking – exhibitors with “case study-like” examples of effective collaboration (win-win-win!) vs. those who describe their organizers as disorganized, non-responsive, unwilling to hear or work with them, and/or charging more for fewer benefits without adequate (or any) explanation. In other words: some organizers are clearly serving their exhibitors well and others clearly aren’t… More importantly, exhibitors are noticing and making decisions accordingly.”

The 2025 edition of EXHIBITORLIVE will be held in San Antonio, Texas, March 16-19.

Reach David DuBois at; Jim Kelley at; Julie Kagy at; Robyn Davis at


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