Like many of our readers, I’ll be heading to Houston on Monday for IAEE’s Expo! Expo!
Although it is getting increasingly to the point where there is not really an “off season” in the tradeshow business, IAEE’s annual meeting in its traditional early December time slot is about as close as it gets to a brief moment where people can take a deep breath before moving on to the new year.
Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in a while. However, most importantly, it gives me a chance to learn what people are talking and thinking about, what the issues will be in the coming year, and what’s going to be important for us to cover as a news organization.
I expect to be surprised by what I hear is important—in fact, I’ll be disappointed if I’m not at least a little surprised. But here are a couple of issues I think people will be talking about, both in conference sessions and to one another in the hallways, and one I DON’T think they’ll be talking about:
• The generational transition. When you look at the Nov./Dec. print issue of Expo, you’ll see our show management survey. A couple results stuck out for me when I first saw them: Two-thirds of show managers are worried about the “graying” of their attendees, and nearly half are concerned about the “graying” of their staffs.
A growing number of tradeshow professionals are nearing retirement. How many is unclear, since some of us have less than clear answers about that—even for ourselves, let alone survey takers—but there is enough circumstantial evidence to tell us that there will be a lot of new faces at the executive level of associations and show management companies in the very near future.
• The plight of the traditional convention center model. Because of the great changes in how local governments are now funded, the convention center can no longer be perceived as the “loss leader” that draws shows to town and generates the kind of economic activity they’re expected to. At the same time, the inventory of available space keeps growing, so that the competition between venues and destinations gets more fierce even as the municipalities that own the venues demand they begin to pay their own way.
In the short term, it appears as if many show managers are in a better bargaining position when they make deals with venues, but that can’t last much longer. Something is going to have to give.
• And the thing I don’t expect to see as much of? Conference sessions on mobile apps. At last year’s Expo! Expo!, I think I counted eight in the conference program. I’m not sure I saw a single session title in this year’s program with the word “app” in it.
That is not to suggest the showfloor won’t be crowded with vendors hawking their versions—and good for them. It’s just not the next new thing the way it was a year ago. What will be the next new thing this year? That I don’t know yet.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.