Evolving great expectations

Vincent PolitoVincent Polito (pictured right), CEO of the Society of Independent Show Organisers (SISO), says The Recovery is in full swing and 2023 has been the year of ‘What’s Next’. Based on conversations with members, for-profit show organisers, he flags some trends he expects to see for the rest of the year

1. Expect the second half of the year to show a lot more innovation and development as organisers have “recovered” and can now look to innovate.

In March at SISO’s CEO Summit, proving the value of trade shows to stakeholders was a key discussion point. Some of that proof includes expanding and enhancing the attendee/visitor experience using technology, data, and creativity.

We will see organisers investing more and more money and resources in using data to create connections between exhibitors/sponsors and buyers, as well as buyers to other buyers. AI will come into play as it gets more sophisticated, with enhanced matchmaking between buyers and exhibitors and buyers to buyers.

Some trade shows have begun industry digital market places, and others are following suit. These 24/7 market places provide another way to help exhibitors and sponsors connect with buyers and deepen relationships with the show brand. Show organisers will continue to look for more digital revenue streams. 

2. Customer needs and expectations are changing, and organisers need to pay attention and adapt.

Green initiatives and sustainability are front and centre to the next generation of employees joining the workforce. Gens Y, Z and Alpha want guided networking at events, and as result, we will see more teambuilding activations on the show floor. These will range from whisky blending to hackathons, to charity projects.

Visitors are looking for convenience and cost savings. Second and third tier cities will see an uptick in business as communities take advantage of the unique benefits they offer. Safety is another consideration in deciding what live events to support or attend in post-pandemic times.

Lastly, exhibitors and visitors are searching for experiences they cannot get online or digitally. It’s up to organisers and exhibitors to provide them.

3. Expect more disruption, more launches and the 2nd and 3rd ranked shows in the market are likely at risk.

Second and third ranked shows will be at risk. Industry leading events will prosper and continue to grow based on the numbers so far this year. Additionally, there will be new shows and conferences popping up all over the US as a new group of entrepreneurs who left corporations behind during Covid are following their passions.

4. Talent acquisition will continue to be a challenge, as the industry will be poached by others at both the entry level and mid-manager levels. 

Expect greater co-operation between competitors to work on the appeal of the industry to those unfamiliar.

The changing/evolving expectation of the customer will dominate the second half of the year. While this industry has prospered by listening primarily to the needs of the suppliers/exhibitors, there will be more than a subtle shift toward the needs of the buyers/attendees/delegates gaining considerably more influence on how events are developed, and how they are experienced. Expect these changes to feel more like a change of kind versus one of degree.