The expo for expos comes to Mandalay Bay

The trade show for putting on trade shows is headed to Las Vegas.

EXHIBITOR2014 will run March 16-20 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and will feature a conference and expo for industry only. Show management is expecting about 6,000 attendees and 275 exhibiting companies. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is estimating the event will bring a nongaming economic impact of $6.5 million to the city.

“It’s in line with previous shows,” Exhibitor Media Group Chief Marketing Officer John Pavek said of the attendance.

Although the show’s size is in line with the past, the industry is on its way up.

In late February, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research released its fourth-quarter 2013 index results. According to the report, the performance of the exhibition industry increased 3 percent year over year during fourth-quarter 2013. In third-quarter 2013, the industry’s performance increased just 0.4 percent.

The fourth-quarter increase is the 14th consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth and the highest increase since the first quarter of 2012, which had a 3.2 percent rise.

“With the fourth quarter’s results and 14 consecutive quarters of growth, and our predictions closely matching outcomes, we are confident in the continued growth and progress of the industry,” the center’s economist, Allen Shaw, said in a statement. “The exhibition industry has survived and emerged from the Great Recession and we are confident that the upswing will continue.”

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s index measures year-over-year changes in four metrics to determine overall performance: net square feet of exhibit space sold, professional attendance, number of exhibiting companies and gross revenue. The strongest metric in the fourth quarter was professional attendance, which jumped 5.8 percent year over year, the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2007. Exhibitors and revenue rose 3 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Net square feet was the only metric that declined year over year, dropping by 0.5 percent.

In Las Vegas, the convention and meetings industry is tracking with the national numbers. In 2013, 5.1 million people attended conventions in the city, up 3.3 percent from 2012. The number of convention and meetings held was up 1.9 percent to 22,027 events.

Of those attending trade shows, about half go with the intention of buying one or more products or services within a year of the event, a ratio that’s been relatively unchanged for the past 14 years, reported Exhibit Surveys Inc., a market research and consulting company. In 2012, the firm found that 84 percent of convention attendees had buying influence and spent an average of 9.1 hours on the exhibit floor.

Although this is the EXHIBITOR show’s 26th year, this week will be the first time EXHIBITOR Magazine will host an awards night during the event, honoring 20 of the industry’s best professionals. The trade show itself will feature a new-product showcase, which includes 45 certified new products ranging from tech solutions to display products and services.

Pavek said attendees can expect a huge amount of technology coming into the industry, from applications and social media to digital content solutions.

“It’s really where the industry is going,” Pavek said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that tech will supersede physical conventions.

“There’s always talk of technology replacing live events and face-to-face, but we’re seeing marketers using it as a way to enhance that face-to-face experience,” Pavek said. “Apps help facilitate networking, messages and digital solutions that allow you to showcase something, such as a product or service, without having to bring it to the show. You can press a couple of buttons and send it to somebody.”

Integration, too, is becoming the norm in trade shows, with companies focusing on the before, during and after of events, instead of just hoping for the best during a convention, as was done in the past.

“It takes more than just setting up an exhibit with a nice design,” Exhibit Surveys CEO Skip Cox said.

Prepromotion, for instance, has become a necessity.

“It has to be very targeted,” Cox said, “because attendees at trade shows come with specific interests in mind.”

For business-to-business marketing channels, Cox said events were the No. 2 source in 2013, behind digital and online.

“The signs are positive and what I think it points to, is that people are seeing the value of events,” Cox said. “Companies still value and recognize the need for events in order to achieve objectives.”

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.