Exhibitions Mean Business – Contributing to the U.S. Economy in Multiple Ways

Exhibitions Mean Business – Contributing to the U.S. Economy in Multiple Ways

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

On any work day, a business-to-business exhibition is likely taking place somewhere in America. Events come in many shapes and sizes, from small, regional events to the largest in the world. The channel is a mirror image of the diversity of the U.S. economy. Exhibitions exist for farmers, medical professionals, amusement parks, funeral directors, fashion designers, food distributors, scientists, manufacturers of all types, film makers, broadcasters, librarians, the oil patch industry, solar industry and the list goes on. The most recent CEIR Index estimates that in 2013, more than two million organizations exhibited at, and over 68 million professionals attended, business-to-business exhibitions.

Professionals from many walks of life use this channel as a way to come together to keep abreast of current industry trends, see and experience the newest product offerings and technologies, and network to help keep their organizations competitive, as well as for personal professional pursuits. Brand marketers exhibit their wares to visiting professionals on the exhibit floor, generating new leads, maintaining relationships with existing customers, promoting new offerings and ultimately driving business for their organizations.

Exhibitions are magical in my opinion. They are powerful, temporary market places that are built up to last for brief periods of time – from a day to a week or more – depending on the group. At each venue, behind the scenes there is a wide array of service providers that make an event happen from building it up, delivering services while it is in progress and tearing it down to make room for the next event: general service contractors, electricians, carpenters, material handlers, florists, audio visual providers, foodservice vendors, cleaners, etc.

Organizers invest substantially to create and deliver a successful event: marketing and sales efforts to build the market place of exhibitors and attract a community of professional attendees aligned with exhibitor target markets. The organizers also make major investments to assure on-premise event offerings align with attendee and exhibitor expectations, in terms of amenities while participating, and pulling together entertainment and receptions that make them want to come back again and again.

Exhibitors make substantial investments to create and execute a winning exhibit program: building and renovating their booths, designing and producing compelling marketing collateral, giveaways as tokens for visiting their booths that fulfill brand exposure goals, showcasing actual product in the booth, and meaningful product interaction opportunities. All materials need to be shipped to the event and employees sent to staff the booths. On-premise activities may extend beyond the booth to include sponsoring special events, hosting receptions and other entertainment.

So, why do I write this? I wanted to paint a picture of the complexity and depth of activity that happens each time an exhibition is held. There is a robust industry with many players. Expenditures, investments are made by organizers, exhibitors and attendees when participating in an exhibition. The spending impact filters through the U.S. economy in many ways and the total effect is quite substantial.

To provide insight into the scope of the industry’s impact on the U.S. economy, CEIR provides estimates quantifying organizer gross revenues and direct spend estimates for exhibitors and attendees at the U.S. level. As you read below, exhibitions pack a punch, generating revenues that support jobs and provide tax funds:

  • According to the most recent edition of the CEIR Index, in 2013, gross exhibition revenues from business-to-business exhibitions exceeded $11 billion
  • In 2012, exhibitors contributed $24.5 billion to the U.S. economy in direct spending
  • In 2012, attendees contributed $44.8 billion to the U.S. economy in direct spending

For access to the reports cited in this blog, go to:

2014 CEIR Index Report

Exhibitor Direct Spending Estimate

Attendee Direct Spending Estimate


CEIR is a proud supporter of Exhibitions Day happening Tuesday, 17 June in Washington, D.C., and attendees will be prepared with CEIR’s data to voice the key issues we face with their elected officials. For more information about this legislative fly-in, visit www.exhibitionsday.org.


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