Event industry steady, but new metrics, strategies needed, say CEIR attendees
Sept. 18, 2012 -- Events remain the backbone of the b-to-b media industry, but the industry may need to look to new metrics to gauge success, according to the speakers at the CEIR Predict Conference last week. “Our industry is healthy, but in certain markets it’s down to four or five players,” said Joe Loggia, president and CEO of Advanstar Communications. “Attendance figures alone may not drive the value of our events in the future. From the volume metrics we’ve gathered, square footage is growing faster than revenue. We need to strategize differently.”
The CEIR Total Index saw 3 percent growth in first quarter 2012 over first quarter 2011, followed by a 2 percent increase in the second quarter of 2012. CEIR predicted 2.9 percent growth for the exhibitions industry in full-year 2012 but warned that economic uncertainty makes it possible that the final tally will be lower.
Professional attendance grew 4.3 percent in the first half of 2012 while net square footage and exhibitors were weaker than forecast. “The performance of the overall exhibition industry has changed from ‘outperform’ to about on par with the economy,” said CEIR president Doug Ducate. “However, the robust growth in attendance during both Q1 and Q2 was encouraging.”
Consumer-related industries were stronger than previously forecast while business-related industries (except for transportation) were weaker than previously forecast. Education, government and medical and healthcare were weaker than forecast. Transportation led the way, up 11.8 percent in first half of 2012, while building, construction and home repair had the biggest drop at 0.3 percent.
Reverse-engineering events: data and customer follow-up
Speakers stressed the importance of maximizing audience data and taking customer contact beyond the physical event. “It’s like a first date, maybe you have fun, but usually you never see them again,” said Frank Anton, president of Hanley Wood. “There is too much of a three-day deal and then it’s over.”
To maintain contact, Hanley Wood’s International Roofing Expo now sends newsletters to attendees all year-round, while Randall-Reilly offers coupons to truckers via a mobile app (125,000 truckers are using the app). To attract younger attendees, Hanley Wood has introduced contests such as the EcoHome Design Awards.
Custom events and marketing services are growing as event producers look to bring marketers closer to customers (and stave off the flow of exhibitor dollars into marketer-owned events). “We’ve got some big shows in in the government/IT space but now we’re doing custom shows for some of our largest exhibitors,” said Neal Vitale, president and CEO of 1105 Media.
Future success of shows will be tied to how well show hosts collect and manage customer data, something that remains a significant challenge. Advanstar lets attendees of its events, such as its MAGIC fashion show, virtually “Shop the Floor” 30 days before the live event kicks off. “Now we can aggregate the data of what they are looking at and what they want to see onsite,” said Loggia.
By Matt Kinsman