By Rieva Lesonsky
Reports of the trade show’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, recent research shows. In fact, BtoB Magazine reports, live, in-person events such as trade shows and conferences are becoming increasingly important to marketers as the world becomes more automated.
After slumping at the beginning of the recession, the trade show industry has just enjoyed its fifth consecutive quarter of growth, according to data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research Index released in December. Compared to the same time last year, the Index was up 2.6 percent overall in the third quarter of 2011. The number of trade show attendees rose by 3.7 percent, the number of exhibitors grew by 3.6 percent and revenues increased by 1.4 percent. Even the average square footage of shows increased by 1.9 percent. Overall, CEIR says the results were stronger than expected.
CEIR isn’t the only organization forecasting growth in the trade show and event industry. In a study by American Express in November, 60 percent of meeting suppliers said they believe the number of meetings planned will rise in 2012. And a recent BtoB poll of marketers showed that 62 percent plan to either maintain or increase their current event-marketing budgets.
Only a few years ago, the future of events was thought to be solely digital, with virtual trade shows garnering lots of hype as the wave of the future. However, BtoB cites another study by Exhibitor Media Group that paints a very different picture. In the Exhibitor study, 70 percent of respondents said they are not allocating any marketing dollars to virtual events. Of those who have participated in virtual events, 68 percent say they would rather host a live event, because attendees at virtual events are “less engaged.” Finally, of those who had actually hosted a virtual event, just 28 percent say it met or exceeded their expectations.
Why the surge in live trade shows and events? In our increasingly digital world, maybe businesspeople are seeking a little relief in real-world interaction with humans. Have you hosted or participated in a virtual event? What did you think of it compared to live trade shows?
Image by Flickr user Sam Galison (Creative Commons)Google+