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4 Reasons to Be Optimistic + 1 Warning

The more data organizers collect, the more difficult it is to focus on the essential trends that will be driving business in 2018 and beyond. If you’re finding it hard to step back from the tidal wave of information coming at you, here’s a snapshot of five data points that strike us as leading indicators of what’s ahead. Four of them are signs of healthy and expanding business climate. The last one is a timely reminder to never be complacent. All data is from the May 2017 ECEF Pulse survey of executives.

1. The profitability of exhibition and conventions is on the rise. Six out of 10 executives report profitability increased for their most recent event. The same number expect another increase for their next event. This is important because it comes at a time when some “thought leaders” are casting doubt on event growth as a source of revenue growth. The data proves that executives who produce events disagree. We do too.

2. Organizers are bullish on the future of face-to-face. Almost half of respondents are planning to launch one or more new events. That’s a 4 percent increase over last year — and more than at any time in the last four years. If your organization is not finding new event opportunities, now is the time to expand your thinking and update your business model.

3. Investment in new event technologies is quickening. The four most popular technologies under consideration are predictive analytics (46 percent), gamification (43 percent), virtual reality (38 percent), and internet of things (34 percent). The average timeframe for implementation is within two years. Inevitably, events that deliver a better customer experience will crowd out those that lag too far behind.

4. Attendee acquisition remains the focal point for organizers. Every year since 2014, well over half of executives have reported spending increases for attendee acquisition. A slight levelling off was to be expected, and this year that number slipped to 46 percent.

5. Competition from digital and online marketing platforms for exhibitors’ budget dollars is a rapidly-growing challenge. One in four respondents say this is “extremely challenging” or “very challenging.” Although that does not come close to topping the list, only 14 percent identified with the issue just a year ago. That’s a noteworthy year-to-year spike, and a threat we need to keep an eye on.

I elaborated on this data in my presentation “5 Data Points in 5 Minutes” at the Exhibition & Convention Executive Forum 2017. You can view the YouTube video or download the slides from

Lippman’s Takeaway: Organizers are well positioned for a period of rapid change and are making aggressive investments in the future.

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