EVENTS ANALYSIS: Up close and personal with exhibitions

Anecdotal evidence - backed up by the latest statistics - suggests that many face-to-face trade shows and events are thriving, and continue to be as important to businesses as they always have been. So despite the effects of the current economic climate, as well as the ease with which we can now communicate across cyberspace (which in theory should both be propelling face-to-face events on a downward slope towards oblivion), it appears that business brands are still just as keen to exhibit at shows and visitors are still just as keen to attend.

A study carried out by ICCA (The International Congress and Convention Association), the tradeshow organiser IMEX Group and trend analysts Fast Future last year, which surveyed 1125 respondents from 76 countries, released its first set of results in March 2010. Only one per cent said they would not be attending live events in 2020, while 74 per cent said that their organisation would maintain interest in live events. And although the most recent figures from the AEO (Association of Events Organisers) show that attendance for trade shows was down in 2008 compared to 2007, the figure is small with a decline of only 2.4 per cent. Furthermore, when attendance figures are broken down by industry sector it can be seen that trade shows in some industries are, in fact, thriving. For example, the catering industry saw an increase of 44 per cent in attendance to its trade shows; industry and manufacturing saw an increase of 21 per cent and generic business-to-business saw an increase of 9.2 per cent in attendance.

Event success linked to market activity
For some industries, face-to-face events are still going strong, but it seems to very much depend on the market in which the show resides. Scott Bannerman, director of Venture Marketing Group - which organises exhibitions in the franchise, learning and recruitment, and learning and development sectors - agrees that it is impossible to generalise when it comes to face-to-face events. "It's completely dependent on the market the show operates within," he explains. "Certain shows have grown and will continue to do so, whilst others may have found it harder to sustain audience levels. It's all about demand within that market."