According to Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, the growth was indicative of a larger trend. “I found it interesting that the growth in revenue and attendance outpaced the growth in floor space and exhibitors between 2006 and 2007—showing that smaller, more targeted shows are what are popular and what's working,” she said.
Ducate said this trend is also an indicator that, despite a slowed economy, marketers recognize that events are essential to their overall marketing mix. “Exhibitions have shown a resistance to downturn and resilience to bounce back,” he said. “It's a much more efficient way to see customers.”
According to Ducate, marketers worried about next year should keep an eye on travel and advertising budgets. “Two things that businesses almost immediately cut in a soft economy is advertising and travel,” he said. “It's always important to watch the Smith Travel report and keep a handle on business travel, because that will be one of the first signals that businesses are pulling out of events.”
That said, the trend in smaller, more targeted events, should keep attendees engaged. “One of the needs that a convention serves is the gathering of intelligence about that industry,” Ducate said. “One of the more fruitful features is having industry experts that can talk about the future of the industry in the short and long term. Putting more influence on content and less on "see and be seen' [is important]. It's not about positioning, it's about value.”
Another important consideration for marketers, given the likely decrease in travel, is the growing trend toward virtual events. According to Ramos, “I think the impact of virtual trade shows is underrepresented in the [CEIR] report. Companies like ON24 and Unisfair are starting to produce platforms and services that simulate the physical event in an online world that is much easier to use than Second Life.” M