By Nicole Bowman, MBA, IAEE Vice President of Marketing & Communications
I recently attended the CEIR webinar on the Status of the US B2B Exhibition Industry. The research presented in this quarterly series continues to provide valuable insights for my marketing efforts.
I have spoken with many marketers in my circle and we all seem to be struggling with the same things – are we communicating the right way…are we being flexible enough…what’s the next situation that will throw us for a loop. Contingency plans upon contingency plans. I am constantly asking myself – Are we doing the right thing? Are we offering the right type of event? Will attendees show up? What will public sentiment be around the pandemic and meeting in-person when my event happens? It’s exhausting.
This is where data from CEIR has helped. During this recent webinar, I listened to an update on the latest COVID tracker survey and COVID forecast from CEIR’s VP of Research, Nancy Drapeau, IPC, Epistemix CEO John Cordier, and CEIR Economist, Dr. Allen Shaw.
Here are a few [highlights] and my takeaways. My opinions are my own.
[Data points to a shift in the marketplace. Fewer executives expect the Omicron variant to impact their shows. During the October edition of this survey, 61% of executives expected the Delta variant to have a somewhat significant impact vs 39% of executives in January expecting a somewhat significant impact from Omicron.]
This is a significant stat. What will our registration numbers look like and how do I effectively plan our marketing campaigns? It’s this question that keeps me up at night. As a marketer, I am pulled in so many different directions, but since COVID hit the scene, everyday seems to be a new struggle. A plan and messaging that was just created is now no longer relevant. And it happens more often than not. I feel like I am spinning my wheels working harder and not smarter with no end in sight. It’s exhausting because planning is exasperated by the daily news cycle and public sentiment of gathering. We (exhibition industry) are in a battle with public perception regarding the health and safety of shows. Knowing that executives polled in this survey are not as concerned about new variants gives me hope that our “new normal” is actually normalizing.
[Fewer hybrid events are being planned. Many organizers are running virtual content after the in-person event.]
This is not surprising. Hybrid events are complex to produce. They are hard on staff. They cost more money and many times an organization that has historically excelled at in-person events does not get its expected ROI not only for event stakeholders but for their internal staff. This is not to say that virtual events are not valuable, they are – in the right market verticals and environments. Events bring buyers and sellers together. We need that in-person human connection to build relationships and trust. Past CEIR research has shown us that people prefer to attend in-person events for networking and shopping and digital events for learning. You have to decide as an organization where or if digital events fit into your customer journey. For example, at IAEE, the pandemic forced us to offer full-day CEM in-person classes as virtual offering. This has turned out to be a great solution for this program as we can offer more with a more flexible marketing approach and professionals do not have to worry about added travel expenses or comfort levels of attending in-person.
[The need for mitigation strategies is likely to ebb in H1 2022 according to Epistemix modeling. Unless a number of negative factors converge, the US is projected to reach herd immunity in the first half of 2022. Once that threshold is reached, mitigation procedures at US trade shows can be lifted. After reaching the threshold, US trade show attendees should only expect the minimum procedures required at trade shows during seasonal peaks.]
Out of everything presented, this brings me the most hope for smoother sailing in 2022. When I read that mitigation strategies will ebb, this signals that attendees will start making longer term plans for business travel. That attendees will feel confident in attending shows. And ultimately, I can create a plan, and execute that plan. I have never wanted stability more than now.
At the end of the day, my point is that there is no good answer right now and we all want good answers. Solid answers. Confident answers. CEIR data allows me to benchmark my thoughts, ideas, campaigns, and strategies against a larger group and that lessens the burden.
Want more information and stats from this webinar, visit the CEIR store to purchase the recording and presentation PDF here.
About the author:
Nicole, with over 20 years of experience in event and marketing management, is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for IAEE. She is responsible for developing and managing all marketing functions of IAEE including corporate branding and event marketing as well as creating and executing the comprehensive strategic marketing plan for all IAEE initiatives including chapter relations, membership, councils, events and advocacy initiatives. Nicole also serves as the Executive Director of Exhibitions Mean Business, part of the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance.