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Exhibitor Metrics Gain Momentum
in March, But Attendance Flat

Darlene Gudea
, President

Carol Andrews
, Editor-at-Large

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
May 1, 2013



Oceanside, CA – The growth in the two exhibitor categories of the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics picked up steam in March. The number of exhibitors and the amount of floor space they occupied during the month both increased about 3% even as attendance growth drifted into the red compared to the same period last year.

The Dashboard revealed the average show across all industry sectors and of all sizes grew 3.0% in net square feet (nsf), 2.9% in exhibitor count and declined (0.5)% in attendance.

There were 29 shows surveyed for the March Dashboard, of which 16 were 100,000 nsf or larger, and 10 were ranked on the TSE Gold 100 list of largest U.S. trade shows. There were also six events that made the TSE Fastest 50 roster of fastest-growing shows.

The adjusted totals were tabulated by subtracting outliers and shows which did not have a same-show comparison to 2012. March adjusted totals reached 5,985,770 nsf, 19,514 exhibitors, and 545,495 attendees. The totals translated to an average of 206,406 nsf per show, 673 exhibitors, and 19,482 attendees. Only four shows reported declines in all three metrics.

First Gear

March was no time to be plying the snow-slickened highways of the Midwest and the late-running winter weather put a damper on at least one trade show for the trucking industry.

The Work Truck Show had been on the road to a record year, but a blizzard cut into its attendance. NTEA, The National Association for the Work Truck Industry, said it ended up with a (0.5)% decline in attendance. Even though officially in the red, the crowd of 10,351 in Indianapolis was the second-largest in show history and complemented a 6.9% boost in exhibit space to 251,200 nsf.

“With a record level of booths already sold for 2014, we are confident our industry is again poised for growth in the coming year,” said NTEA Executive Director Steve Carey.

The big Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, the largest show analyzed in the Dashboard, also turned in mixed results. Exhibitor count perked-up 0.2% but exhibit space slipped slightly (1.2)% to 815,778 nsf, and attendance fell (2.0)% to 90,148, according to Exhibit Management Associates, Inc.

Attendees hailed from all 50 states and some 80 nations. Exhibitors included the top engine producers and 40 manufacturers of trailers, which can take up a lot of floor space. 

Growth Leaders

  • The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting stepped up briskly in the two exhibitor-oriented metrics even though attendance in Chicago was down (3.5)% from the previous year. A surge of new exhibitors increased the exhibitor count by 33.2% compared to 2012 and the size of the exhibit floor by 22.8% to 270,400 nsf. New advances in medical imaging technology and 3D printing helped beef up the exhibitor pool for the conference.
  • National Religious Broadcasters Convention & Exposition reported no change in attendance, but like the orthopaedic surgeons, it saw a nice increase in both exhibit space and exhibitor count. The exhibit area in Nashville covered 39,000 nsf, up 18.2% from the 2012 meeting. The number of exhibitors climbed 3.2% to 194. Turnkey booths and budget exhibiting plans were offered to help out small companies.
  • EXHIBITOR 2013. The organizers of this Fastest 50 show seemed as excited about the prospects for 2014 as they were with the across-the-board growth they experienced this year. Exhibit space in Las Vegas was up 12.4% this year to 66,854 nsf. Hall-Erickson and Exhibitor Media Group said 168 exhibitors signed up for 47,000 nsf of booth space for the 2014 show before heading for home.

Organic Growth

Natural Products Expo West saw growth in all three metrics, including a 5.9% increase in exhibit space that moved the New Hope Media event closer to the 400,000 nsf threshold.

The floor was 391,132 nsf and accommodated 2,432 exhibitors and a crowd of 63,385.The attendance was up a solid 4.7%, but New Hope saw even more encouraging stats in a 30% jump in the number of retail buyers in the aisles along with 630 new exhibitors.

Show Manager Adam Andersen said the Anaheim Convention Center was abuzz with optimism about the near-term future of the organics industry. “You truly had to be there to experience the energy on the show floor and throughout Anaheim,” he said.

The increased adoption of electronic health records in the U.S. continued to drive the HIMSS National Conference & Exhibition. The show in New Orleans was a record-breaker in exhibit space and exhibitors, although attendance slipped to 34,600, down (5.3)% from last year’s show in Las Vegas.

Carla Smith, executive vice president of Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said the show has been flourishing because Karen Malone, vice president of meeting services, and her team, had stayed ahead of the technology curve. “We are at the pivotal moment in healthcare we have been waiting for,” Smith said. “We have created specific content around the upcoming trends for 2013, with a particular focus on meaningful use, mobile health and consumer engagement.”

Vigorous Venues

Even without hosting HIMSS this year, Las Vegas was a busy city that topped the Dashboard with 1,364,778 nsf of total exhibit space. Seven trade shows were included in the Las Vegas tally, including the Gold 100 events HELI-EXPO 2013 and ASD Las Vegas. HELI-EXPO reported a 3.3% increase in exhibit space but ASD Las Vegas slipped (1.8)%.

The Mid-America Trucking Show hauled Louisville into second position with 815,778 nsf. Anaheim was third with a total of 498,332 nsf from Natural Products Expo West and the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference.

Next Month

The April Dashboard in the next issue of TSE features a fairly short list of large exhibitions. High Point Market Spring, Coverings and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show highlight the calendar. Other shows slightly smaller in scale, but well worth watching in April include GlobalShop, LIGHTFAIR International and the BIO International Convention.