Originally published by Trade Show Executive
International trade is a hot topic lately as many of us follow the developments of the various geopolitical happenings currently making headlines. Issues at the forefront such as the U.S./China trade negotiations and China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative, Brexit, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations make an irrefutable argument toward the importance and value of free trade.
The global exhibitions and events industry feels the repercussions of international political activity deeply, given its economic impact on the global economy. Latest forecasts estimate this impact at more than $300 billion. For reference, the latest figure from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research places the economic impact of the U.S. exhibition industry at $97 billion – that’s almost one third of the big picture.
Therefore, what happens in our industry across borders means a lot to us because it is not just the facilitation of fair trade that affects global business-to-business (B2B) events. Geopolitical issues significantly affect travel, which affects attendees being able to make it to shows and shipments arriving on schedule, which affects exhibitors as well as everyone’s return on investment, etc.… we are all well aware of what “trickle down effect” means in our world.
We also know that exhibitions and events continue to drive the economy, everywhere. They contribute to job creation, cultural and educational improvements. And while it may sometimes seem as if we are the only ones who truly understand the scope of it, the numbers speak for themselves. Which is why movements such as Exhibitions Day, Global Exhibitions Day and the Exhibitions Mean Business Campaign are in place and need your continued support.
By its very nature, it is a lot of information and most of the decisions are beyond our control. So how do we, as industry leaders, position ourselves to make sure world happenings do not “happen” to us?
First of all, knowledge is power. Organizations such as the World Economic Forum, International Monetary Fund and U.S. Department of Commerce provide up-to-date and useful data that can be used to track the latest developments. These resources will prove invaluable as you navigate the next step: your global development plan.
Have you created a global development plan? If so, how long has it been since you’ve evaluated it? In order for the B2B industry to weather these storms, we need to constantly dust off and adjust our global development plan. We need to seek out new markets for our exhibitions and events. For example, the World Economic Forum regularly lists the top 10 growing countries – are there untapped markets for your shows you can develop?
One thing we see each year with the IAEE International Excellence Award is that the answer is yes. Up-and-coming shows are succeeding not only in burgeoning countries, but in established regions as well. The beauty of the face-to-face marketplace is that it applies to all products and services – anything that brings buyers and sellers together. We have been engaging in face-to-face business far enough back in history to know that it is the one thing we can definitely count on regardless of where you are in the world. Therefore, while geopolitical issues may somewhat steer the ship in different directions, we must stay confident at the helm.
Another thing we can do is make sure we affect as much of our industry on the home front as possible. As you read this, we have just concluded Exhibitions Day in Washington, D.C. Next month I will share the advances we made on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, read about the platforms we addressed at www.exhibitionsday.org and stay tuned!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO