OXON HILL, MD — CEIR Predict offered six sessions on topics ranging from “Monetizing AI for Events” to “Transforming Brand Experience with Data and Design.” The program also featured research and analysis of economic trends by an economist who is a regular guest on CNBC, Fox News and CNN, plus news and trend analysis from a press panel that included reporters from Bloomberg and Politico. Trade Show Executive has identified nine key takeaways:
- Moderate economic growth for now. “The Fed increased its 2018 GDP forecast to 2.8% from 2.7%, while its 2019 GDP forecast was unchanged at 2.4% in June (when the most recent Summary of Economic Projections were published),” said Dr. Lindsey Piegza, Chief Economist for Stifel Fixed Income. “The recovery since 2009 has been solid and steady, but we haven’t seen robust growth or an aggressive recovery. A 2% growth rate is a minimum for developed countries.”
- Still positive but losing momentum. U.S. GDP in Q2 rose at a seasonally adjusted of 4.1%, the fastest pace since Q3 2014 and following a 2.2% rise in Q1, Piegza said. Despite these positive numbers, job growth has slowed and the participation rate is still low. “The majority of the decline in the labor force comes from the 20- to 55-year-old sector with only 59% of working age population participating,” she said.
- Offer braggable benefits. Low unemployment rates are impacting hiring in the trade show industry. “Millennials are looking for braggable benefits,” Polito said. Companies like Diversified offer flexible schedules, dog day Fridays and built-in gyms at the office, but those benefits don’t always come cheap. “With less than 2% unemployment in Portland, Me., demands are huge,” Larkin said. “Pressure on overhead is significant right now.”
- Recruiting and retaining talent is a challenge. Reed launched eight events in 2018 and has recruited 20 people, said Marie Browne, Group VP of LaunchPad at Reed Exhibitions, North America. “It has been a challenge to find and retain the right people,” Browne said. “We have a large millennial employee base, which we are training and then have to replace after two years. We hired a dedicated internal recruiter to find talent. It’s difficult, but it helps that we are in New York area. We have even opened up space in the city for those who prefer a more urban environment.
- International concerns mount. A quick survey of organizers in the room indicated that international attendance is not growing for most. During the last year, show organizers have reported visa delays and denials for exhibitors and attendees. Tariffs are also a key concern for show organizers, but so far there has been no negative impact. “We do have concerns for our Seafood Boston, which has high international attendance,” said Mary Larkin, Executive Vice President of Diversified Communications.
- Digital amplifies physical. Despite the growth in e-commerce and our digital first society, “the real world still matters,” said Dr. David Bell, Professor at the Wharton School of Business. He noted that there’s good news for face-to-face events: It’s about bonding — a close relationship that develops as a result of shared experience — not branding. Be authentic and transparent, Bell said. “You want orators, not customers. Use incentives to drive word-of-mouth.”
- Take a stand. Every brand has to consider taking a stand on social issues, like Nike did, said Dina Cappiello, Senior VP at Edelman. This issue played out in the exhibition industry recently when Outdoor Retailer decided to leave Utah for Colorado. “Nike spoke to their base,” Cappiello said. “They were micro-targeting their audiences. Nike sales are up online by 31%.”
- Tell your story. “The story isn’t the event,” Cappiello said. “The story is what happens at the event.” Look at trending stories and how they relate to your industry, she recommended. For example, “Detroit hired a chief storyteller to change perception and lure investment,” Cappiello said. Advice for brands as publishers: “Be honest, even when it’s not in your best interest, or it will erode trust and authenticity.”
- Record development ahead. “I am shocked at the rebound of the convention center industry — there was so much debt around these projects,” said Joseph Mysak, Editor of Bloomberg Brief. “It’s almost like a second golden age in public finance. There are states and municipalities embracing economic development, with record amount of bonds sold for financing this year.” Demand has clearly driven the supply increase, a trend that could impact future negotiations.