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Looking Back at 2023

2023 IAEE Chairperson Dennis Smith reflects on the exhibitions and events industry’s journey in 2023 and beyond.


Editorial Note: Originally published in the December 2023 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.

As this issue publishes, we are on the verge of opening Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Dallas, Texas. As 2023 IAEE Chairperson, it brings me great pleasure to see that performance metrics for this year’s event are the best we have seen in the past three years. It brings me even greater pleasure to hear similar reports from colleagues across various industry sectors. As foretold by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the trade show industry is entering into the light at the end of a very dark tunnel as we expect to reach full recovery in 2024. Overall, 2023 has been a particularly good year albeit not without its challenges and opportunities.

As noted at the latest CEIR Predict Conference, a number of factors impacting the global landscape that also affect our industry are likely to persist. Notably, we have made progress in the area of reducing visa wait times. The Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA) worked with members of Congress to introduce the Visa Processing Improvement Act in August. We are moving in the right direction for being able to conduct our global business as needed and will be keeping a close eye on its progress. I encourage you to contact your elected representatives to relate how exhibitions mean business and convey the importance of their support.

As for opportunities, I believe most of us would agree that AI (artificial intelligence) wins the award for biggest disruptor of the year. The AI advances we have seen in 2023 have elevated business practices to new levels as they provide organizers, exhibitors and attendees with a more efficient use of greater resources. AI is revolutionizing predictive analytics which can be used to create personalized experiences for each attendee. The use of AI in marketing campaigns is aiding show organizers to increase their attendee base and exhibitors to increase the ROI (Return on Investment) of their trade show investments. AI exploded on to the scene this year with capabilities that are stretching the imagination in ways that will be very interesting to expand upon and see where it takes us in the coming year.

In this rapidly evolving industry, the importance of collaboration cannot be overstated. Collaborative efforts are key to fostering innovation, driving business growth, and elevating the overall experience for exhibitors and attendees alike. By working together and exchanging information, trade show organizers are adapting and evolving to meet changing needs and preferences. This ensures that exhibitors and attendees reap the benefits of up-to-date, cutting-edge experiences that have a lasting impact.

By sharing insights and best practices, exhibitors are building upon each other’s successes. In doing so, they optimize their strategies and create more engaging and effective exhibits, improving the overall exhibitor experience. Ultimately, collaboration is a catalyst for innovation. By inviting fresh perspectives and diverse input, the trade show industry is pushing boundaries, exploring new possibilities, and creating dynamic environments that captivate attendees and drive business results.

As executive leaders, it behooves us to foster the spirit of collaboration as we push new limits in technologies and their subsequent methodologies. Both internally in our organizations and externally among industry associations, we could not have gotten where we have in the past three years were it not for our collaborative efforts.

As we celebrate a highly successful 2023 and look toward an even better year ahead, I invite you to share your learnings and experiences in our collective journey as an industry. It has been an honor to serve the exhibitions and events industry as 2023 IAEE Chairperson and I look forward to continuing my support of this amazing and rewarding industry. Happy holidays!

Dennis Smith
2023 IAEE Chairperson
Vice President of Business Development
Asian American Hotel Owners Association

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