CHICAGO — Mergers and acquisitions in the trade show industry are on the rise, with many independent and for-profit show organizers purchasing brands that fall into their existing and emerging portfolios. In some of these instances, the consolidation is meant to grow the reach of companies and events, and while the independent organizers are making big moves, the events industry associations are starting to look to consolidation as a solution to emerging challenges and an evolving landscape.
The association industry has faced a new set of challenges coming out of the pandemic, including younger professionals being less interested in joining professional associations, financial instability from falling retention rates during the pandemic and services, resources and events that overlap with other associations within the same industry. This leads to many groups working toward the same goals and vision but being less powerful than one unified voice.
In Australia, research findings reported that business events associations wanted one organization to represent the industry to government and the larger business community. From that, the Australian Business Events Association was formed with the objective of providing better education, networking, advocacy and development opportunities, and creating a fundamental change in the business events association industry of the country.
“An industry of this size and importance needs a strong and robust industry association to commission research, create policy, train its people, tackle sustainability, develop career paths, link with international and domestic trade opportunities and powerfully advocate to government. Our challenges require us to work together,” Peter King, who was appointed as independent Chair of the Board said of the Australian industry.
In a less transformative way, the U.S. trade show industry overall recognized the value in joining forces to advocate and lobby through the pandemic, with Go LIVE Together and the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) forming to encourage the government to provide needed relief to the industry. ECA continues to bring industry leaders together to advocate on Capitol Hill.
“While Go LIVE Together wasn’t originally meant to be a permanent organization, the leaders of the group recognized that having a permanent unified voice for advocacy was needed and beneficial, and thus Go LIVE Together morphed into ECA,” Tommy Goodwin, Vice President at ECA, said.
There are many ways associations can consolidate and join forces, whether that be through a legal consolidation, joint venture, strategic alliance or partnership, and there has already been some action on this front.
The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) outlined the organization’s plans for strategic acquisitions at the beginning of 2023 and has been executing on it through the acquisitions of the Event Leadership Institute, Event Marketing Association-UK, and partnerships and alliances with the American Geophysical Union, National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals, Events Industry Council and American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) among others.
Using convergent approaches and strategic association partnerships for producing large events also creates greater value, as the PRINTING United Alliance, the organization behind the PRINTING United Expo, found out. At its 2022 edition, the expo united all segments of the printing industry under one roof, garnering a 9/10 satisfactory rating from a third-party research firm and saw growth in the attendance of professionals with purchasing authority and influence.
Given the benefits and solutions that consolidating provides event industry associations, the trend in M&A activity and consolidation is not looking as though it will slow down.