What Could Go Wrong?

These are unusual times, and there may be a moment of reckoning soon when our personal political sentiments will begin to collide with our professional lives.

Many of you will be reading this on Nov. 6 election, a mid-term event unlike any in recent history.

Like most of you, I adroitly attempt to keep my personal political views far away from my professional life. Few of my business associates know where I stand on political issues and I know where few of them stand.

And that is as it should be. One view many of us in the events industry do share, however, is one I have heard echoed many times: “We change lives by the commerce we create.”

Without the opportunity many of you provide to allow people to meet face to face, there would be fewer advances in technology, culture and economics. 

These are unusual times, and there may be a moment of reckoning soon when our personal political sentiments will begin to collide with our professional lives.

Despite the good news we hear about routine gains in the CEIR Index and accounts of record-breaking attendance at shows, despite the increases in gross domestic product and the historically low unemployment rate, there are reasons – even beyond stock market volatility – to suggest the gravy train is about to slow down.

The Federal Reserve is predicting that GDP will slow next year to 2 percent and to 1.8 percent in 2021. Recent corporate quarterly reports indicate business investment is growing at a very modest rate of 0.8 percent. This is even before we get to the anxiety over trade tariffs.

We have seen terrorist attacks and political crises in the past push an anxious economy over the cliff. What makes it different this time is that the work of the event organizer has become so much more complex, with stakeholders demanding much more of us than in the past.

Perhaps now, not later, is the time for you to ask yourself, in a fast-changing environment, what can I do to help the industries and communities I serve? How can I assure that, whatever happens, I am doing my part to change lives by the commerce I create?

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

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Do Tariffs Matter to the Tradeshow Manager?

The political chatter, both in the U.S. and around the world, regarding the demise of a global community and the potential threat of tariff wars can’t be good for the exhibitions business.

That’s what some seem to be saying. An informal survey of senior show organizers during CEIR Predict Sept. 13-14 near Washington, D.C., indicated there are concerns about international attendance at U.S. shows.

Some said attendees had reported delays or even denials when applying for visas to visit the United States.

If that’s the case, it is such a recent phenomenon it has not yet registered. U.S. Travel notes that travel to the United States from other countries is down, but only slightly: 1.8 percent between 2015 and 2017 with a net loss of about 900,000 visits out of a total approaching 77 million.

Nevertheless, the political chatter, both in the U.S. and around the world, regarding the demise of a global community and the potential threat of tariff wars can’t be good for the exhibitions business.

Metaphorically speaking, trade shows are the oil that greases the wheels of international commerce. The United States remains the fountain of innovation for most industries, and if people are not able to visit this country to learn about those innovations, more than just the events industry is in trouble.

Event organizers have experienced such challenges before, dating back to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the SARS scare of a few years later.

It is imperative at moments like these that event organizers tell their stories to the communities they serve. It is imperative they reinforce  to their stakeholders the value of meeting one another face to face.

Certainly, innovations in marketing and disruptive elements challenge the events industry today, but it can’t be replaced…unless we allow it to be.

The Events Industry Now Has Its Own Trump Effect

It has felt a little strange to go to industry-related conferences and events over the last couple of months and have nobody bring up the subject of Donald Trump.

Over the years, I have talked politics with very few people in the events industry, which is as it should be. The tradeshow and convention business is generally apolitical and most of the time anybody’s specific political views are irrelevant to the work at hand.

However, it has felt a little strange to go to industry-related conferences and events over the last couple of months and have nobody bring up the subject of Donald Trump, if for no other reason than the president seems to be all anybody is talking about everywhere else I go.

I think there were a couple of reasons for this. First, given the high emotions regarding the new president, nobody wanted to risk offending a client or customer if it turns out you don’t share their opinions. Second, there is such a sense of anxiety over the unknown quantity the Trump administration represents regarding trade policy and the global economy that nobody wanted to spook their exhibitors and attendees.

Last week’s confusing travel ban on refugees may have finally shifted the status quo in the events industry. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, anybody who saw images of the demonstrations at American airports understands this could put a damper on travel to meetings in the way the SARS and avian flu scares of recent years did. That’s even before we get to the disturbing question of who can and cannot travel to and from the United States.

For better or worse – and we don’t really know for sure – this could be just the start.

What’s an anxious event organizer to do? Even one that doesn’t want to admit to anybody that he or she is anxious?

Pitch your product. This should be the best of times for the events industry!

Early-year shows have had record-breaking crowds and showfloors. As an indication of the industry health, Emerald Expositions, after a flurry of acquisitions, will likely sell this year for double what it cost four years ago.

In the larger economy, a recent interest rate increase had virtually no negative impact, both consumer spending and business investment is picking up, home construction is on the rise and state and local governments are spending more money than before the recession.

Tell your anxious customers that story. Make exhibitors understand this is the time for them to introduce their products at your shows. Convince attendees they will miss out on valuable information if they do not attend your conferences.

Don’t stop now.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.No Fields Found.

Assume Nothing About the Global Events Industry

I certainly expected to hear some opposing voices in response to my Oct. 19 post remarking that forces at play in the world are likely to cause at least a stutter for the global exhibitions industry.

shanghai-tradeshow-imagdeI certainly expected to hear some opposing voices in response to my Oct. 19 post remarking that forces at play in the world are likely to cause at least a stutter for the global exhibitions industry.

Some of those who wrote quite reasonable responses not only have every right to object to my view, but almost a responsibility to signal to their clients, “Don’t worry, everything’s fine.”

However, even those of us who live within the cocoon of American culture cannot ignore the reality that, all over the world, nationalism is on the rise and free trade has become one of its adherents’ easiest targets. We see it here as the U.S. presidential election campaign staggers to an end.

So, those who are most entrenched in the international exhibitions industry, as they gather next week for the UFI Global Congress in Shanghai, can’t take much comfort in the recently released American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast citing “political and economic uncertainty coupled with safety concerns in some countries.” The report from one company that has something to lose as a result admits, “we are seeing some hesitancy in our industry.”

The report, though, goes beyond the current international political and economic climate to cite three factors that could have a longer, more serious impact on the global meetings industry:

  • Hotel consolidation
  • Security and safety concerns
  • Confusion about the proliferation of event technology

All of which the beleaguered international event organizer has little or no control over.

There are a couple of things you can control, like that growing proliferation of technology. Organizers are starting to take advantage of data accumulation and analysis tools to better identify the needs of potential attendees and then share that information with exhibitors.

There is no reason to assume traditional marketplaces will remain static as the forces American Express suggests come into play. Instead, you can probably expect them to disrupt the conventional patterns of buyer-seller interactions. However, armed with real information, regardless of where you are, you can communicate the value of your event and the urgency with which potential attendees and exhibitors should approach it.

Assume nothing.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhrt3@gmail.com. Hart will moderate a webinar Nov. 30 for association executives entitled, “4 Easy Ways to Generate Non-Dues Revenue.”No Fields Found.

With Globalization Era Ending, U.S. Event Organizers Have Their Work Cut Out

If a politician once famously said, “All politics are local,” 2017 might be the year we start saying, “All tradeshows are local too.”

blog-imageIf a politician once famously said, “All politics are local,” 2017 might be the year we start saying, “All tradeshows are local too.”

For more than a decade, smart U.S. tradeshow organizers were forming joint ventures with organizers in Europe, Asia and Latin America. They were investing in exhibitions companies all over the world and the largest trade events in Shanghai, Hannover and Rio de Janeiro had huge U.S. pavilions.

If the globalization of the tradeshow industry has not come to an abrupt halt, it is beginning to fade into the distant past as corporate exhibitors try to make up for declines in their international sales by reintroducing themselves to domestic buyers.

A few things have happened that just about everybody knows about:

  • The World Trade Organization says global trade will grow at its slowest rate this year since 2007.
  • Global Trade Alert counts 338 trade protection actions by governments around the world this year, up from 61 in the same period in 2009.
  • China’s gross domestic product has waned, along with its need for commodities and equipment.
  • Finally, regardless of who is the next U.S. president, it looks like there will be no Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and, whether the American public understands the implications or not, fewer and fewer trade treaties with other countries.

In other words, global commerce is slowing down, at least for a while. Companies in every country – not just the U.S. – seem to be battening down the hatches for…what?

That’s not clear, but, if you are a tradeshow organizer who serves a market that’s global reach is shrinking, you’ve got to think fast.

Remember what I wrote a few paragraphs earlier: Corporate exhibitors must try to make up for declines in their international sales by reintroducing themselves to their domestic buyers.

Now is the time to remind those exhibitors of how many buyers you can draw within a single day’s drive of your event. Now it the time to reinforce for them via content marketing the value of the domestic industry your show serves. And now is the time to tell the once-regular attendees who haven’t been around for a few years that you want them back.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.No Fields Found.