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Shaping the Future of Meeting Spaces

The exhibitions and events industry is experiencing an exciting transformation fueled by the imagination and desires of attendees. Read IAEE President David DuBois’ letter on the importance of collaboration to create unforgettable experiences for everyone involved.

Originally published by Trade Show Executive

In looking at the future of trade shows, the recurring theme we see regardless of which segment we examine is the increasing importance of collaboration. The relationship between show organizers and their vendor partners, destinations, and venues has traditionally required a high level of cooperation. However, we are seeing a new kind of measurable accountability being added to the mix.

Research conducted by organizations such as the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and Destinations International (DI) reflects the undeniable push toward enhancing the experience of one’s guest. CEIR’s library is a cornucopia of strategies for show organizers looking to deliver the best attendee experience possible. Likewise, DI’s most recent DestinationNEXT Futures Study presents a comprehensive look at how destinations are being challenged to create an unforgettable experience for those attending events and destination visitors.

Furthermore, the key to meeting this demand for the “ultimate experience” lies in the sense of community created by the show organizer in tandem with all its partners. The concept itself is not new; destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have always served as a tremendous resource for engaging with local vendors, chambers of commerce, communities and talent. What is new is how the shift to a more community-oriented mindset creates dynamics beyond the logistics-oriented mindset that has been the status quo for so many of us.

Not surprisingly, technology plays a big role in the process. For quite some time now, venues have been tackling the challenge of maintaining and enhancing infrastructure to meet the increasing demands for reliable Wi-Fi, not just for all the devices attendees and exhibitors bring with them, but also for the technology being used by the organizer to execute the trade show. It is critical for exhibitors to have the necessary bandwidth to execute their exhibiting plans and strategies.

I think we can all agree that technology will be a major focus point from now on, but it’s not the only rapidly evolving element. The learning component at shows has emerged as a substantial consideration, especially given the increase in non-traditional education environments. This is where things get intricate between the show organizer, the vendors and the venue (especially convention centers) because in order to be successful, they must be on the same page.

Innovative show organizers are heeding the call for a different learning space from attendees. The historical floorplan as an “exhibitions only” area is evolving as evidenced by “learning labs” on the show floor. CEIR research indicates that attendees are less willing to walk long distances to presentation rooms. Flexibility becomes an important consideration to venues as exhibit and learning spaces morph into concepts such as “experiential learning” and “edutainment.”

Speaking of edutainment, another consideration for venues is the rise in festivalization of trade shows. The need for outdoor spaces (and related contingency plans) is on the rise, as is the appeal of non-traditional spaces. Our industry is experiencing an exciting transformation fueled by the imagination and desires of the attendee. The onus of making it all happen falls on those of us behind the curtain, and the strength of our collaboration becomes the glue that holds it all together.

These factors, in addition to overall elements such as ease of registration, movement throughout the convention center/venue, transportation from the show to the host hotel(s), and creating the overall sense of feeling welcome – not just to the show, but to the city and venue – means that there needs to be an immense amount of trust and cohesiveness between all partners.

This new reality encompasses a thorough understanding of how each contributor to a show’s success – the show organizer, venue, host city and related partners – can integrate their resources to create an unforgettable experience, thereby ensuring a win-win for everyone. We look forward to discussing this topic more with you at this year’s Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition this December in Las Vegas (register at

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO

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