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2024’s Hottest Industry Trends

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These are some of the industry trends that are top of mind as we anticipate moving fully beyond our recovery period from COVID in 2024 and toward the highly awaited period of growth.

By Mary Tucker | Sr. Communications & Content Manager | IAEE

The consensus among industry professionals is that we are tired of talking about the effects of COVID, yet many are still feeling them. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has been forecasting since 2021 that the industry will reach full recovery from the pandemic this year and there is a collective sigh of relief to finally be here. While some shows have hit their full recovery markers, others are still working toward those goals.

This was pointed out in a recent IAEE webinar featuring 2024 IAEE Chairperson Marie Browne and IAEE President and CEO Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed., CEM providing their insights on industry issues that will take center stage this year. While we won’t go through all 10 trends detailed in The Year Ahead: IAEE’s Industry Insights, Association News, and 2024 Trends to Watch For, we will look at a couple that are very hot topics among industry professionals.

If you build it, they will come… won’t they?

Attendee acquisition is a hot topic for obvious reasons and a lot of time, money and effort is being put into it. As noted in CEIR’s Attendee Acquisition Trends Driving Growth study, exhibition and event marketers battle challenges from economic buzzkills such as rising inflation and travel costs to attendees waiting longer to register for an event. These uncertainties require them to focus on ways to attract attendees and communicate those attractions effectively.

Strategies that yield results include creating highly engaging content at events, as IAEE members report that attendees have made it abundantly clear that constraints often force them to be selective about events they can attend. Show organizers must maximize learning experiences, networking opportunities and business engagements to make the list. This has led to a fair amount of experimentation, which is not necessarily bad.

“Show organizers are having to move outside of their comfort zones and, while the pressure is definitely not pleasant, the benefit is that a lot of innovative solutions are created in the process,” notes Flanagan. “As an industry, we are having to push ourselves to embrace new technologies and try new things with our shows. And it’s paying off because events have become much more dynamic in a short amount of time.”

Innovative processes include lively activations on the show floor, increased hands-on learning experiences and inventive show floor layouts that bring exhibitors and attendees together in more personable ways.

In terms of communicating these innovations, event marketers need to capitalize on FOMO. In talking with IAEE members, they report success with strategies such as ad retargeting, including exhibitors in their attendee acquisition efforts and working with social media influencers to drive their brand. These are in addition to traditional marketing such as targeted emails and in-house social media campaigns.

They must align their messaging in ways that tick the boxes that motivate attendees, which is where the challenge lies and also which leads to our next trend.

Let’s get personal.

We live in a time where data is everywhere and data is king. As such, show organizers must not only gather and sift through the data but also apply it to make their target messaging as customized and personalized as possible. Marketers operate in the era of “ME” and those who capitalize on the resources available most effectively will see the best results.

We’re really talking about a few trends here: data, technology and personalization. What it boils down to is that however the many possible combinations of those elements play out, show organizers and marketers must find the best avenues for creating a tailored experience for their stakeholders and make sure it comes across as such.

This is where marketers’ strategies diverge because they depend on the budget they are working with, their familiarity with and access to the technologies available, and how well they understand their customers. Despite popular belief, show size does not matter.

“The immediate response when it comes to the subject of using data and technology to create customized experiences is that only the bigger shows will be able to really take advantage of it,” says Browne, Group Vice President for RX. “While yes, there is a certain amount of truth to that, there are also ways in which smaller shows can combine these elements to effectively resonate with their attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. As Marsha pointed out, this is where the creativity comes in. Also, the end result is often more about quality than quantity.”

Whatever you do, stay in the game and keep moving forward.

The end goal, of course, is not only to hit pre-pandemic markers but surpass them. The trend that keeps on giving is that of staying on the pulse of how the industry is shifting and what is available to help you meet your goals. In actuality, this is not a trend because there will never be a time when this is not good practice. One of the ways you can do this is by making sure you are taking full advantage of the ongoing learning opportunities provided by IAEE.

Listen to the full webinar – available free of charge for IAEE members – in which Marie and Marsha detail this year’s top 10 industry trends here. Register for upcoming IAEE webinars here.

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