Originally published by Trade Show Executive
The excitement of ushering in a new year is intensified with the departure of the most challenging year our industry has ever experienced, and the renewed sense of hope for 2021 is palpable. IAEE held its first ever Virtual Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in December, and a considerable amount of interest and energy centered around the question: what now?
While it is impossible to fully predict what 2021 has in store for us, IAEE has identified and developed invaluable focal points as part of its “FutureScaping” initiative that was actually launched back in 2016. This visioning project has culminated in an extensive report, Future Pathways, which will be released in the coming weeks. A preview of Future Pathways was presented at Expo! Expo! that paints the big picture of what this forward-thinking projection recommends for our industry, honed from the wealth of data gleaned by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and insightful input from a task force comprising senior-level executive IAEE members, as well as viewpoints from industry stakeholders beyond IAEE’s membership.
Future Pathways has the potential to act as a real game changer for those who choose to actively incorporate its information into their strategic plans. The 13 tenets presented break down trends and insights into the future of trade shows that encompass ways to meet the needs and wants of attendees, maximize the power of a brand, and simplify the complexities surrounding show design with the flexibility that allows for the highest experiential deliveries. They also fully explore the integration of technology and extending the timelines of the business connections and engagements that are inherent to B2B events, as well as advancing the areas of sustainability, measurability, optimization, safety, and diversity, equity and inclusivity for our industry.
Furthermore, Future Pathways presents seven distinct forces that embody the universe of exhibitions and events because, as we know, our industry touches all other industries. The financial impact of trade shows stretches across all sectors of the U.S. and global economies, as has been reflected in the steadily upward economic growth of our industry throughout the years leading to 2020. It is true that COVID hit our industry hard last year, and we will continue to feel its effects even as we work toward our recovery in 2021. Preliminary forecasts from CEIR point to a full recovery by the end of 2022, however, there is no way to be absolutely sure of how or when that will play out.
The only thing we can be sure of, is how we approach our recovery. The future is ours to make of it what we may, and one of the greatest lessons our industry has taken from 2020 is that now is the time to genuinely give thought to how we do things in a way that may not have presented itself were it not for the type of year 2020 ended up being. Although IAEE had the foresight to enter into its “FutureScaping” initiative in 2016, there is no question that its findings carry a power today unlike any that has reverberated through our industry’s history.
The bottom line is this: there is real opportunity here.
As industry executives roll up their sleeves for the year ahead, I encourage you to embrace the new possibilities. The promises of new health measures against COVID are encouraging, and hands down, we are all ready to get back to the face-to-face marketplace we know and love! Nonetheless, we are being presented with new and innovative pathways for our industry’s future – that reach beyond COVID – and now is the time to explore them together.
Happy New Year!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO