Half Moon Bay, CA – With a collective footprint of 39 million net sf of exhibit space, 15,000 exhibiting companies and 3.3 million attendees, the 100 trade shows that made up the fourth annual Trade Show Executive Gold 100 reflect some of the most important engines of the world economy. The organizers of those Gold Standard events were honored by Trade Show Executive and 37 sponsors in a three-day extravaganza September 21-23 at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay near San Francisco. Featuring a lineup of expert speakers, networking ‘til you drop, and the glamour and glitz of the awards dinner, the event helps gets everyone in position to tackle the challenges and opportunities that are likely to arise in the tumultuous election year ahead.
“The Gold 100 shows represent more than a massive sea of exhibits,” said Darlene Gudea, president of Trade Show Executive Media Group. “They also reflect remarkable achievements in innovation, technology adaptations, global reach and green initiatives,” she said. At the Gold 100 Gala, TSE staff and key sponsors presented 12 Gold Grand Awards to the high achievers in those and other categories, including:
Top Show Organizer: Reed Exhibitions
Reed Exhibitions held on to its position as the dominant show organizer in the United States — and worldwide as well. Reed produced eight shows on the Gold 100 roster in 2010 led by the SHOT Show, National Hardware Show and the JCK Show – Las Vegas. The company’s worldwide portfolio is up to 460 shows in 36 nations and 44 different industry sectors.
Largest Annual Trade Show: International Consumer Electronics Show
The International (CES) held on to the distinction as the largest trade show in the Gold 100 rankings for the fourth year in a row . The annual Las Vegas gadgetry extravaganza covered 1,442,000 net square feet in 2010, a particularly impressive performance considering the depths of the recession at that time. The venerable show also attracted a high level of media attention for its exhibitors.
Largest Semi-Annual Show: MAGIC Marketplace
Advanstar still has the magic touch. Its MAGIC fashion show ranks each year in the Gold 100 as the largest semi-annual show and was also honored at TSE’s Fastest 50 event last March for its blockbuster growth.
Most Dramatic Growth: Specialty Graphic Imaging Show
The SGIA not only moved into the ranks of the Gold 100 for the first time at #93 but increased attendance by 54% to nearly 22,000.
Leading Trade Show Brand Worldwide: MD&M and Semicon (tie). These two venerable brands of trade shows are held stateside as well as globally, bringing their products and ideas to the world.
Highest Economic Impact: International Consumer Electronics Show
Las Vegas hosted 25 Gold 100 shows last year but CES and its 126,000 attendees generated the biggest jackpot of them all. Crunch the numbers and you get $119 million for the Las Vegas economy… and that doesn’t include what is dropped at the tables.
Most Innovative Show: HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition
Bold new ideas and out-of-the-box solutions landed this health care show #33 on the Gold 100 and also the award in the most competitive category. Some of their fresh ideas include a mandatory housing policy for exhibitors; a unique online portal; cross-training for show staff; scheduling the top keynote speaker at the close of the event; Lunch and Learn sessions; and the World’s largest Pizza party — maybe not in the Guinness Book of World Records but certainly in trade show history.
Best Use of Technology: NRA Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show
The NRA made great use of technology to connect everyone in the business. The show’s YouTube channel had 51,000 uploads and a real-time message board which kept attendees up to speed on what was being tweeted on Twitter. The show’s “Event Social” tool tied attendees to both the show and their social-media of choice.
Leader in Green Initiatives: Natural Products Expo/Supply Expo
In 2007, the Natural Products Expo East and West went all out with a top-to-bottom effort that made them the Leader in Green Initiatives — and they did it again in 2008, 2009 and now 2010. Their tactics included everything from limiting the idle times of trucks at the loading docks to factoring in the distances that their suppliers had to travel. And just about everything that wasn’t nailed down was recycled.
Marketing Genius Award: International Baking Industry Expo
Smith Bucklin last year worked with Marketing Design Group to complete a major overhaul of their triennial expo and presented it to the world as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Findings from a survey resulted in a new push to connect with niche-market customers and the international audience. The educational sessions were expanded five-fold and awards were presented that drew the attention of the trade media. The result of these changes was an incredible 39% increase in attendance.
Best Use of Social Media: MAGIC Marketplace
Retail fashion is a natural for social media with its worldwide audience, artistic flair and appeal to the youth market. Advanstar covered all the bases with 50 on-the-scene bloggers firing off dispatches to fashionistas around the world. There was also a micro-Web site connecting exhibitors and buyers; apps galore; and even a new take on the old-fashioned photo booth with pictures of attendees appearing on Facebook in real time.
Against All Odds: Reed Exhibitions Japan
The final award of the evening was not restricted to the Gold 100 shows but to any show organizer who overcame daunting challenges to keep their events sailing full speed ahead. There was a lot of talk about economic tremors and tidal waves in the Trending and Spending session, but it’s not often a show organizer has to tackle the real thing. Tad Ishizumi and his team won by a landslide for getting their shows back on track so quickly and seamlessly after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. They not only demonstrated a high degree of skill and dedication in an unprecedented situation, but also gave an important boost to the quick recovery of the Japanese and regional economies.
Active Discussion and Debate at the Gold 100 Summit
The summit portion of the Gold 100 Awards & Summit has become a timely forum for industry leaders to review new ideas tested in the current year and look ahead at the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead. This year’s sessions did not disappoint. With its fast-paced format — most sessions were an hour or less — the summit packed seven sessions and lunch into an eight-hour time frame. Gold 100 delegates could get a quick handle on burning issues and the wave of the future from some of the brightest minds in the business — on the stage and in the audience — who were not shy about speaking their minds.
Creating a Culture of Creativity
Lyn Heward, creative director for Cirque du Soleil, opened the conference with a deep dive into the business of audience engagement. She shared ideas on how to develop a creative and versatile staff to keep your shows fresh and appealing to both exhibitors and attendees.
Heward explored the philosophy of hiring that has kept Cirque du Soleil on the artistic cutting edge of live entertainment. Management has a duty, she said, to foster a close-knit and talented team and then allow it to push the envelope together. “It is all about people who are able to trust one another with their most creative ideas.”
Cirque du Soleil literally plays with fire on a daily basis, she said. “The repetitive action of igniting the floor beneath your feet 475 times is certain to yield accidents. Still, you must learn to leverage your risk and creativity because complacency is the biggest risk you’ll ever take,” Heward said.
She assured show organizers that risk can be its own reward. “Even the downside of tight budgets and projects that flop can be turned into positives that can focus the creative process and prevent you from getting into a rut,” Heward said.
Trending & Spending
The discussion moved from circus magic to the salt mines with an assessment of the frustrating economy by a panel of industry leaders in the Trending & Spending session.
Moderator Darlene Gudea, president of Trade Show Executive Media Group, gave an overview of trade show growth using data from TSE’s Monthly Dashboard of Trade Show Metrics. “For the past four quarters, trade show growth has been solidly in the black. Net square footage has led the recovery, reaching as high as 8% in Q2 of 2010 and hovering around 3% in the first two quarters of 2011.” She warned, however, that change was in the air as the year winds to a close, and noted that TSE’s 20-member Exposition Forecasting Board went out on a limb in predicting a slowdown.
“The economy is clogged up like a kitchen sink,” said TSE Chief Economist Frank Chow in summing up a business environment that has basically remained stalled since the last Gold 100 in 2010.
“After a long 2009, we saw a pretty good recovery from the middle of last year through the middle of this year,” said Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry. “But frankly, I am a bit nervous about next year.”
The level of uncertainty around the industry was reflected by the results of an audience poll in which 67% of the respondents were neutral or pessimistic about sales growth in 2012, compared to 33% who were optimistic. In terms of profits, 61% were neutral or pessimistic about growth while 39% were optimistic about increased profit margins.
“The recovery has been very similar to the downturn — gradual and broad-based,” said Aaron Bludworth, COO of George Fern Exposition & Event Services. However, he predicts that a full thaw in the recession is a ways off.
Patrick Fallon, vice president of business development for CompuSystems, Inc., which handles registration for 26 Gold 100 shows, said he was encouraged to see exhibitor counts holding fairly steady for most shows although there were still concerns about construction events and smaller shows that might not have strong financial underpinnings.
James Rooney, executive director for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, said that while shows and corporate events were still in the game, attendees and exhibitors continued to wait longer before committing to attend, which was making the management of venue space and hotel blocs trickier to manage.
Leading and Managing During Extreme Crisis
Tad Ishizumi, president of Reed Exhibitions Japan, proved why he is known as “Mr. Exhibition” in Japan in the aftermath of this year’s huge earthquake.
The quake unleashed a devastating tsunami, which led to serious damage at a nuclear power plant outside Tokyo, just a month before Finetech, a leading regional trade show with a strong customer base in mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea. Faced with the choice between holding Finetech as scheduled or canceling it, Ishizumi quickly decided the show would go on even though 80% of the exhibitors had said they were cancelling due to concerns about a nuclear fallout in Tokyo.
Ishizumi’s team got to work reaching out by telephone and in person to exhibiting and attendee companies throughout Asia. “We needed to void the rumors that Finetech was being canceled,” Ishizumi said.
Through reassurances that Tokyo was well outside the contamination zone, Finetech roared to life with brisk registrations and exhibit space numbers that were in line with last year. “But our anxiety did not go away until we actually saw the attendees arrive at Finetech,” Ishizumi said.
The Inside Scoop
A panel of top industry executives told audience members their businesses had gone past selling square footage and tote-bag sponsorships in their quest to keep their shows profitable and attractive to an evolving customer base. “There are a lot of levers you can pull besides the price per square foot,” said Chet Burchett, president of Reed Exhibitions Americas.
Burchett said Reed is using extensive research to develop pricing for shows that is highly individualized and based on location. “The idea is to make it impossible for a prospective exhibitor to say no,” he said.
Don’t give up on b-to-b media was the message from Charles McCurdy, chairman and CEO of Apprise Media. “Trade magazines have taken a battering in recent years, but it doesn’t mean they are finished or have little to offer investors,” he said. McCurdy pointed out that the trade show component of many b-to-b companies remains sturdy but is sometimes overlooked by equity firms. “The hardest part is getting investors to recognize a good trade show business as opposed to considering it another b-to-b disaster waiting to happen,” McCurdy said.
No show is going anywhere without broadband. Fresh off a successful show that was heavy on digital promotions, Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president of conventions for the National Restaurant Association, said show organizers should not overlook broadband capacity when selecting a venue. “Bandwidth is an important consideration,” said Heftman, executive vice president, conventions for the National Restaurant Association. “People go to a convention center and assume they will have complete access to their smart phones, iPads and whatever other platforms they use.” In addition, so much of the way we do business at trade shows relies heavily on digital bandwidth.
Tony Calanca, executive vice president of Advanstar Communications, talked about a hotel truce. “Inserting audit language in contracts for hotel room blocks is becoming an effective defense against the attrition clause.” Since an audit provides proof of how many rooms show attendees occupy, it can be a double-edged sword if turns up a shortfall, but it can also open the door to further negotiations.
Power Lunch with a Power Broker
David Levin, the charismatic CEO of United Business Media, was on stage for a live interview with TSE columnist Bob Dallmeyer. Levin shared his strategies on geo-adapting UBM’s trade show in all corners of the world as well as his plans for growing the company in the years ahead. The full interview starts on p. 38.
What’s in Your Wallet?
Sales representatives who can still bring home the bacon in a tough economy are most likely to see their paychecks increase, according to survey results presented by Skip Cox, president & CEO of Exhibit Surveys, Inc., and TSE Contributing Editor Danica Tormohlen.
“Sales management will probably benefit the most in terms of higher compensation in the coming year,” said Cox. “Most of the hiring will be in sales as well.”
New data from chief executives indicates that an increasing number of companies were anticipating modest increases in head count with most of the new heads bolstering sales staffs. The trend was true both for the exhibition industry and other sectors. Cox said show organizers might have to pony up a little more in salary to bring in a promising sales rep from outside the industry.
Health insurance costs remained a factor in hiring and compensation. Tormohlen said employees of independent show organizers could probably expect to see higher premiums as a result. “Associations are more likely to absorb those costs while for-profits are not,” she said. An in-depth report on compensation trends and compensation levels of top association and for-profit executives will be published in the December issue of Trade Show Executive.
The popular catch-all session that wraps up each Gold 100 Summit came to the conclusion that facing the brave new world included internal and external challenges for show organizers.
The discussion, led by moderator Gary Shapiro, president & CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, was generally bullish in terms of the prospects for the trade show industry. Show organizers, however, will need to be on top of their game if they want their events to deliver a solid ROI to their customers.
“We’re spending more time focusing on getting key buyers to the show and making sure they find value there,” said Kevin Johnstone, director of trade shows for NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.
The concept of community building and extending the life of the show beyond the actual show dates remain a promising goal. And that will require show organizers to think beyond the physical show. “Organizers must not think of themselves as event managers; they’re managers of the communities they serve,” said Galen Poss, COO of dmg::events.
Poss and the other panelists expressed confidence that the exhibition industry had weathered the worst of the storm and was seeing some good opportunities for expansion and other new ventures, especially internationally.
The economy and the floundering leadership out of Washington and other countries continued to be a drag. “Economic uncertainty and the fact that our government can’t seem to get it together is a big issue,” said Paul Dykstra, chairman, president and CEO of Viad Corp. said. “What happens in Greece impacts a lot of people in this room,” he said.
Darrell Denny, senior vice president of business development for Nielsen Exhibitions, said the near paralysis has created a squeeze on the venture capital that show organizers depend upon for acquisitions and other expansion. “There is a lot of money sitting on the sidelines because they don’t want to step into a contentious environment,” he said.
The legal and regulatory arena posed issues such as the nagging travel obstacles to international attendees, and the use of the increasing volumes of data collected by show organizers and registration companies. Veteran exhibition attorney Mark Roysner offered some tried and true advice to show organizers. “Things can go wrong at a lot of levels,” he said. “You need to consider all potential liability issues because what you don’t know can knock you out.”
In addition to the Gold 100 Awards and Summit, the event offered networking opportunities on the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Ocean Course on Half Moon Bay, the Thomas Fogarty Winery, several hosted receptions, and the Afterglow Party and Cigar Bar. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority was the Gold 100’s title sponsor; CompuSystems, Inc. was the Platinum/Registration Sponsor; and Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted the Gold 100 Golf Outing.
“The high quality of the conference, the elegant setting and the unparalleled gathering of industry success stories has made the Gold 100 Awards & Summit the highlight of the year for the trade show industry,” said Diane Bjorklund, TSE’s vice president of events. “Without the generous support of 37 sponsors, an event of this caliber would not be possible. We are grateful for everyone’s participation.”
For video highlights of the event, go to http://www.tradeshowexecutive.com/GoldGala-4thAnnual-VideoHighlights.asp