The financial crisis of 2008 had many predicting the end of trade shows, but 10 years later, the convention industry is thriving with this weeks CES show in Vegas acting as living proof.
The collapse of the US housing market in 2008 rippled through every industry around the globe, and trade shows were no exception. Companies forced to lay off workers could hardly justify the expense of traveling to and participating in B2B events – especially when the internet provides a viable option for promoting and finding new goods and services.
The trade show market shrunk by 3.1 per cent in 2008 and then by another 12.5 percent in 2009.
But the upbeat trade show industry proved too bubbly to be quelled by just any old worldwide economic downturn. Just two years after the market crash – which saw the trade show market shrink by 3.1 percent in 2008, followed by 12.5 percent in 2009 – the trade show sector began its steady recovery with consecutive growth from 2010 to 2016.
Taking place from January 9-12, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a great illustration of the industry’s recovery as a whole. It’s rolled out annually in Las Vegas by the Consumer Technology Association to flaunt the latest and greatest in pioneering tech. The conference suffered a 20 percent attendance loss in 2009 but has since built its numbers back up, with this year marking a record 4,000 companies participating, including familiar names like Dell, Bosch, and Techcrunch.
Predicted 44 percent growth in convention and event-based jobs between 2010 to 2020.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 44 percent growth in convention and event-based jobs from 2010 to 2020 and, if we take CES as an example, the numbers seem right on track. In 2010, the conference boasted a sizeable 120,000 visitors but fast forward to 2017 and the number has grown to 170,000. And, if the hype proves true, CES will welcome an additional 14,000 in 2018, making a grand total of 184,000 for the year.
But the industry’s recovery wasn’t always so certain. After the conference market shriveled in 2009, predictions were austere. The trade show magazine Exhibitor found that 31 percent of businesses planned to decrease their trade show spending in 2010, but the gloomy marketscape seemed to have no effect on the industry analysts who insisted with unrelenting positivity that the market would stabilize and grow. In the long run, these Pollyannas were vindicated. A 2017 report from Statista shows 29 percent of companies now plan to increase their event budgets (up from 15 percent in 2010), with only 23 percent of businesses predicting a decrease.
Four out of five people who attend trade shows have buying power.
A report from CEIR points out that four out of five people who attend B2B events, such as trade shows or conferences, have buying power. An equally tantalizing 2016 report from Statista also found that 74 percent of attendees were more likely to purchase products they’ve seen at conference branded events like sponsored after-parties or lounges.
And whatever your sector, where better to get together and talk shop? This is the real reason conferences will never die. It’s too fun to talk about your niche industry with other people who live it. Ever gone deep about the pitfalls of matching algorithms or the challenges of engaging hiring managers? Me too! You see your friend’s eyes go vacant as you expound your never-to-be-written thesis on how AI will revolutionize hiring, but you just can’t stop yourself. Conferences are places where that kind of talk is welcome and even productive.
The trade-show industry seems to have taken the financial downturn of 2008 and used it as an opportunity to prove it’s worth in the B2B marketing sector.
So the question isn’t whether trade shows will survive, but whether Vegas has enough Wifi for CES.
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