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State of the Industry

Read IAEE’s President & CEO David DuBois’ State of the Industry in the latest Industry Perspectives blog

Originally published by Trade Show Executive

For industry executives responsible for formulating their organization’s strategic plans, the anticipation is building as we await the Spring release of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s 2020 CEIR Index Report. This annual breakdown of the U.S. exhibition industry’s performance in comparison to the overall U.S. economy across 14 sectors, and its predictive outlook for the next three years, has become a vital resource for many. Along with the annual CEIR Predict Conference, industry leaders can feel confident that their strategies align with the best forecasting information available to us.

The data leading up to this year’s CEIR Index Report reflects that trade shows remain a highly valued business channel, particularly among heads of marketing. According to CEIR’s Heads of Marketing Insights Series, executives who use trade shows to help meet their marketing and sales objectives noted that face-to-face interaction strengthens their abilities to engage with potential clients in ways that no other marketing medium can touch.

There is something about a potential client’s ability to have that personal interaction with a company representative; to see or use a product; ask their questions; and think through how they would use this product or apply this service to meet their business needs, that makes the trade show such a one-of-a-kind experience.

It is interesting that this perception is even higher among younger heads of marketing – those you might think would be more open to other, more digital and less face-to-face channels for doing business. This might be surprising until you consider the trust factor. You may recall that last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer revealed the general population’s erosion of trust in government entities and mainstream media outlets. This notion of trust has created a push toward seeking out information from organizations and organization leaders.

When you combine this realization with the current learning trends that lean toward a more community-based approach to professional development, and the trade show industry’s evolution toward highly personalized experiences for attendees, then the value of the face-to-face marketplace becomes irreplaceable. This perception is also reflected in CEIR’s Attendee ROI Study, in which respondents ranked business-to-business (B2B) exhibitions as their top source of information.

As I noted last month, we will undoubtedly be integrating more technology into our face-to-face interactions, and that is where the question marks arise. How much and in what ways? This is where progress comes in and things get interesting. However, there is no question about the strength, value and timelessness of the trade show.

Naturally, the economy does play its part in the bigger picture. This is where the CEIR Index Report becomes a crucial part of the strategic planner’s library. The past year has seen some slowing of growth within the industry, mirroring the overall U.S. economy, but the industry is still in growth mode. Although the trade wars of the past year have created some noise within the industry, the overall industry growth has remained fairly steady albeit on a smaller scale. According to the 2019Q3 CEIR Index results released in December, industry growth is poised to pick up the pace in the fourth quarter of 2019 and into the first quarter of this year.

Overall, the outlook is good and our industry continues to thrive. The state of the industry is strong and the best thing that industry leaders can do is continue to build upon the elements that drive its growth. Investing in our workforce, advocating on behalf of our industry to our government leaders and continuing to strengthen industry partnerships from within will keep us moving forward. Stay tuned to CEIR updates at and other industry-related information at

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

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