Trade Show Industry Salutes the Present, Ponders the Future at TSE Gold 100 Awards Gala & Summit

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR; RENEE DIIULIO, SENIOR EDITOR; SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Laguna Niguel, CA – It was the trade show industry’s rendition of the Academy Awards with the leaders, innovators and celebrities of show biz gathering to celebrate the success of the 100 top shows at Trade Show Executive’s Gold 100 Awards Gala & Summit September 17-19.  It was “all about them” and all for them as Trade Show Executive magazine,  25 generous sponsors and six supporting industry associations launched a glitzy new event for the 100 honorees that have set the Gold Standard for the trade show industry. It  featured three days of inspiration and  relaxation at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Resort in Laguna Niguel, CA.

“An event to honor the highest achievers in our industry was long overdue,” said Darlene Gudea, VP, publisher and editor of Trade Show Executive.  “We were very pleased that numerous industry vendors and associations agreed. Their support enabled us to create a first-class event that exceeded the expectations of a group that is not easily impressed.”  Diane Bjorklund, TSE’s director of events, added, “We were thrilled to have the leading show organizers — our industry’s celebrities —  join us for this inaugural event.  It was the interactive dialogue between the  speakers and audience that made the Gold Summit so relevant and frank.  Many of the attendees were taking notes which is highly unusual for a group of senior executives that are already experts in their field.”

Ten Win Grand Award
At the Gold 100 Awards Gala, Nielsen Business Media won a Grand Award as “The Top Show Organizer” of 2007. Nielsen’s honor was among the 10 Grand Awards presented to the associations, private organizers and individual trade shows that achieved special distinction.

Nielsen produced nine of the top 100 exhibitions, accounting for a 9% share of market. Most of its shows serve the retail market, including the ASD/AMD events that ranked #17 and #18 in the rankings. Other shows include the HD Expo and Conference serving the hospitality sector and MedTrade.

The nine other Grand Award recipients were:

  • The International Consumer Electronics Show, the annual Las Vegas showplace for the latest in electronics for the consumer market, was named “The Largest Trade Show” of 2007 with 1,804,070 net square feet of exhibit space [audited].
  • Advanstar Communication’s fashion event MAGIC Marketplace/August took the honor for “The Largest Show Produced by an Independent Organizer” at 1,100,885 net square feet.
  • SEMICON, which was heralded as “The Leading Brand Worldwide,” with eight shows bearing the SEMICON name, including SEMICON West, SEMICON China, SEMICON Europa, SEMICON Japan, SEMICON Korea, SEMICON Russia, SEMICON Singapore, and SEMICON Taiwan.
  •  The Radiological Society of North America’s RSNA Scientific Assembly & Annual Meeting documented the “Highest Economic Impact on a Host City” in 2007.  RSNA attendees spent $128 million in 2007 in Chicago, staying in hotels, dining in area restaurants,  and shopping and touring the city during their stay.  This figure is almost $15 million more than its closest competitor, according to figures from the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.  RSNA had the highest number of room nights (129,794) and peak number of rooms reserved in one day (22,181).
  • It was no contest for the ABC Kids Expo, which won in the category “Most Dramatic Growth.” The five-year old show has grown rapidly each year since its launch.  Already a mega show with 303,500 net square feet of exhibit space, this 78th-ranked show grew 67% in net square feet, 51% in exhibiting companies and 44% in attendance in the past year alone.  No show came even close to growing at these levels in all three metrics. Currently, 103 exhibitors are wait-listed for the 2009 event.
  • In the category, “Most Innovative Practices,” there was no competition once The SEMA Show entered.  SEMA’s 2007 event was an experiential and educational extravaganza, easily eclipsing the 99 other shows not only with its creativity and innovation but also for creating an event that the industry gets all revved up about. Some of the show’s top  drawing cards included “Hot Import Night Rave” which recreated the thrills of the youth lifestyle including hot cars, music and personalities; the Motor Trend Proving Ground; the Off-Road Test Track, Mopar Alley, which showcases the products and personalities of the specialty equipment business; and the Green Zone, proving it’s cool to be environmentally friendly. [TSE will report on the show in more depth in the December issue.]
  • There were several strong contenders for the award, “Highest Global Participation.” But The NAB Show nabbed the award, as a result of the show drawing 75 delegations from 166 countries – more than any other show.  In total, the National Association of Broadcasters show drew 28,000 international attendees, nearly 30% of the total attendance.
  • Surfaces won the Grand Award for being at “The Forefront of Technology” with its innovative tools which leave no stone unturned in prospecting, selling and providing strong customer service to exhibitors and attendees. Moreover, organizer Hanley Wood Exhibitions developed the tools in-house including ADAPT! and HWE SalesLogix integrating EMS.  The tools enable the staff to assess historical and up-to-the-minute registration info; create targeted campaigns; add programs that meet the demographic criteria of past and present attendees; examine sponsorship levels; check payment history; offer social networking tools for appointment setting and lead retrieval; creating digital brochures and electronic buyer invitations; and more.
  • Natural Products Expo West, produced by New Hope Natural Media, a division of Penton Media, eclipsed the other shows and won the Grand Award as “The Leader in Green Initiatives.” The show’s eco-friendly procedures touched every facet of the show — some 55 points relating to the site, the staff, the exhibitors, sponsors, attendees, service contractors and other vendors. For example, show  management uses paperless technology when possible and biodegradable paper stock otherwise; reuses the majority of signage and structures for three years;  has reusable badges; requires green initiatives in all RFPs and uses vendors that support the green philosophy.

High-Level Audience
The by-invitation-only event drew a wide cross-section of industry leaders from Washington, DC to Santa Ana, CA.  Among the attendees were presidents, CEOs, CFOs, executive VPs, group VPs, show managers, leaders of trade show industry associations and other VIPs.  Roughly 38% were new faces in the crowd – and hadn’t  attended any trade show industry event during the past twelve months.  They took part in a fast-paced summit in which most sessions were one hour or less.  The summit included presentations, interactive dialogues and a live interview.  Sessions were devoted to updates and discussions of the burning issues of the day such as travel challenges, inflation, the global economic slowdown, reaching the youth market, convention centers of the future, tapping into global opportunities and more.

Trending & Spending Panel Gives Forecast
During a special live version of Trade Show Executive’s top-rated Trending & Spending column, the outlook was for some near-term bumps in the road due to economic conditions, the rising cost of air travel and the nagging issue of obtaining U.S. visas for attendees from China. But things look brighter in the long term. “Focus on the expansion, which is going to last a lot longer than the recession,” said Frank Chow, chief economist for TSE.

Doug Ducate, president of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and Terence Donnelly, vice president of Experient, drilled down into the industry with specifics. Ducate reviewed results from the latest CEIR Index. With 2008 mid-year metrics showing some underperformance, growth in the near term is not guaranteed. This is particularly true in industries such as consumer goods, food, and building and construction, Ducate said. But Ducate urged show organizers to “keep their eye on the ball, not on the scorecard.”

Donnelly agreed that some tough times may be ahead, having observed registration data showing drops in exhibitor registration and square footage. He advised show organizers to work with exhibitors to keep them in a show, suggesting smaller or combined booths. Destination marketing and regional focuses can help to boost attendance.

But all was not doom and gloom. Margaret Pederson, president of Amirex, noted that the exhibition industry is a strong industry with strong brands that bring stability to the market.

Power Lunch — Live
TSE Columnist Bob Dallmeyer brought his highly acclaimed Power Lunch column to life with an interview of Chuck Yuska, president and CEO of PMMI – The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, during lunch at the Gold Summit. Yuska discussed the challenges of keeping a large international event such as PACK EXPO at the top of its game in a time when business consolidation is hampering attendance growth. He said one of his most serious concerns is being able to predict the future during the ongoing technology boom and making sure the PMMI shows are on top of it. “Some kid in a garage somewhere is going to invent something that I need to know about and be part of,” he said.

Looking Abroad
An intended discussion on how the present economic situation will impact international show participation became a true discussion when international experts Cherif Moujabber and Cliff Wallace put the session in attendees’ hands. Topics addressed included visas, currencies, international marketing and emerging markets, particularly Asia.

Cherif is president and CEO of Creative Expos and Conferences. Cliff is managing director of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and Chairman of Hong Kong – Shanghai Venue Management (Zhengzhou) Ltd. managing the Zhengzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Henan Province, China. He is also the President of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

“The exchange rate is both a blessing and a hindrance,” said Cherif.  “Some feel the lower dollar will help international businesses with the costs of exhibiting in the U.S., yet it may also hurt their ability to sell their resulting higher-priced goods.”

Asia was seen not only as a promising market for U.S. organizers but as a necessary expansion for companies planning on remaining in the elite ranks of the industry. While the visa situation has improved somewhat, foreigners, particularly Chinese, are challenged to prove that they do plan to return to their native country. Organizers can help by providing evidence of past attendance.

“Many organizers want to be in China and Russia and are struggling to learn how those markets work,” Karen Savala, vice president, customer service and outreach for Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), said from the audience during one of the lively give-and-take sessions. Wallace added that Hong Kong’s influential exhibition market has generated steady growth year after year. “And that growth is expected to continue for the next 10 years,” he added.

It was not as though organizers were ready to give up on the U.S. market. Organizers said they were prepared to compete and urged exhibition industry associations, particularly the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) to start using their influence to build up support for trade shows in Washington.

“Why can’t the U.S. have a national strategy of making this country a great destination for trade shows?” asked Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Reaching the Younger Generation
The industry titans were not about to rest on their laurels when it comes to the future. There was a consensus that cell-phone marketing was becoming a “must-have” tool to attract young entrepreneurs to trade shows and the seemingly quaint idea of face-to-face marketing in an age when even e-mail is starting to become considered old-fashioned. “Show managers think they are reaching them through online marketing or e-mail, but then they hear comments like, ‘Why would I use something so slow?’” said Margaret Pederson, president of Amirex and Chair-Elect of the IAEE.

Digital Relationships Take Center Stage, Says Terry Jones, Keynote Speaker
The idea of speaking directly to an actual person in a B-to-B setting is not obsolete and can even be appealing to the up-and-coming generation. Keynote speaker Terry Jones, the former president of Sabre and the founder of Travelocity.com, opened the conference with a dynamic presentation on the importance of digital relationships. Jones made several observations that successful business strategies should incorporate. The first one — technology comes before technique ― means improved business processes often lag behind technological advances. For example, going way back in history, Alexander Graham Bell thought the telephone would be a tool for the deaf. Today, we are still determining how best to use the Internet. In the meantime, markets have changed. Business is driven by speed and convenience, and buyers have more power. “We buy food at the gas station, take pictures with our phones and bank in grocery stores,” Jones pointed out. “Choices are made instantly,” he added. “Using your cell phone, you can pay for parking or buy a soda from a vending machine.” Innovation is necessary, and companies need to think like their customers.

Jones said show managers are grappling with the issue of attendees booking outside the room block and dealing with online travel services undercutting the rates. He noted that trade shows offer automated registration and hotel bookings but rarely travel. He suggested that show managers integrate all three with the registration process and go a step further: cross-sell perks such as upgrades and transfers.

Jones concluded by emphasizing that customers are searching the web, not surfing the web, and businesses must ask how their clients will find them. The answer should be multi-channel. “Face-to-face is not going away, but it is no longer enough. You need to build digital relationships,” said Jones.  [For a link to Terry Jones’ presentation, Click Here.]

Reaching the Millennials
The goal of technology, according to 23-year-old Zack Below, president and CEO of webzack.com, is to get professionals, particularly younger ones, to use a social network and translate that experience into a show visit. The Millennium Generation is not coming in droves on the show floor, said Below, but they represent future buyers as they rise in the corporate ranks. Show organizers should be courting them now. Below, a trade show attendee since he was 14, said his tech-savvy peers would become equally enthusiastic about in-person events once they got their foot in the door. He suggested show organizers use the technology which the Millenniums embrace including viral marketing, social networking and instant messaging.

Convention Centers of the Future
Technology isn’t just used to get people in the door—it also opens the door and impacts the users’ experience once past the door. Donald Grinberg, principal architect of HNTB Architecture, discussed venue technology from the angle of how it relates to people. Architects consider several factors when designing buildings, including productivity, sustainability, user interfaces, event and management integration and future proofing. New tools help to improve these considerations.

Saving the Best for Last
The final session of the day addressed the “burning questions” of the audience. Moderated by Skip Farber, president and CEO of MCF and Associates, and Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, attendees were able to bring up subjects that had not come up in the day-long summit. The first question went to Shapiro who organizes the largest trade show in the U.S.  An astute attendee said that the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) often serves as an indicator for the industry and wanted to know what type of performance the show is expecting in January. Shapiro said the show had modified its space to accommodate the enhancement of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but also noted that some exhibitors have consolidated and some square footage had been lost. He suggested organizers consider economic conditions, industry-specific changes and event perception as they forecast for future shows. From there the discussion moved to politics and the election (where Shapiro encouraged the industry to become more active), how to manage expectations as a show hits critical mass (Farber suggested a focus on buying power rather than attendance numbers), how to maintain a sense of community within large shows (segmentation and communication), the impact of air travel and the ratio of national versus regional shows (a cyclical process although top executives are rarely found at regional events), the changing retail model as more manufacturers begin to sell directly to consumers (exhibitors still benefit from media exposure and image awareness if not distribution), and innovation. “We need long-term planning as a nation and an industry and we must not be unwilling to change. ‘Pride cometh before the fall,’” said Shapiro.

Survey Says….
Trade Show Executive is conducting a survey of event participants and sponsors to set the dates, site and program for 2009. If you are interested in serving on the Advisory Board, please contact Darlene Gudea at dgudea@tradeshowexecutive.com.

Reach Darlene Gudea, TSE vice president/publisher & editor, at (760) 929-9666 or dgudea@tradeshowexecutive.com; Frank Chow at (760) 929-9666 or fchow@tradeshowexecutive.com; Margaret Pederson at (203) 253-5209 or :pederson@optonline.net; Karen Savala at (409) 943-6960 or ksavala@semi.org; Gary Shapiro  at (703) 907-7610 or gshapiro@ce.org; Cliff Wallace at (852) 2582 7800 or cliffwallace@hkcec.com; Zack Below at (715) 345-6599 or zack@webzack.com.