While convention attendance has dried up, convention centers have dialed up their expansion plans

Convention Centers Expanding Despite 2020 Attendance Drought

While convention attendance has dried up, convention center have dialed up their expansion plans. The pandemic is intensifying the competition among cities, which are rushing to build bigger, more alluring event spaces. 

Convention center building on the rise

Things are looking up

A seemingly juxtaposed situation is unfolding in the convention space, which is making ADEX excited about the future.

While we are reading devastating facts about our current situation, as seen in the article quote below, we are also encouraged by the hundreds of millions of dollars being invested into convention centers, hotels, and exposition centers around the country.

“Normally, there are more than a quarter-million conventions and trade shows in the United States each year, ranging from the huge CES technology trade show in Las Vegas to smaller expos for janitorial supplies or antique-toy enthusiasts. In 2016, those events drew 84.7 million people, who spent a total of $110.4 billion, according to the latest survey by the Events Industry Council.”

This is a good sign that the industry will come storming back. Maybe not immediately, but almost certainly.

Many city convention centers, hotels, and exhibition centers are investing heavily for the anticipated full-scale shows to return in the next 1-2 years:

  • Indianapolis: Spending up to $155 million to retain the American Dental Association convention in 2026
  • Georgia: budgeting $70 million to double Savannah’s convention center size
  • Cleveland: officials are seeking $30 million to upgrade an underused health technology center and add it onto the Huntington Convention Center.
  • Terre Haute: where the foundation for a $32 million convention center is half poured, the county Capital Improvement Board just began working on a plan for a $20 million hotel nearby.


Why are cities pouring so much money into a space that is currently inactive?

ADEX’s Director of Business Development, Cheryl Wood, shares her thoughts:

“I believe most overlook the great impact the exhibition, convention, and event industry has on the economy and what it can do for a city’s state of business. These events affect all major cities, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue for a variety of different industries on a regular basis.” 

The switch to virtual has certainly helped to keep things going in a time when we’ve been left with no other option. Some have elected to convert their entire business over to virtual, predicting that the trade show industry won’t snap back to the strength it once had.

But ADEX is bullish on the return of face-to-face tradeshows for a few great reasons:

  1. More effective and efficient method of business development:
    In-person trade shows and events keep a company’s sales force face-to-face with their prospects and clients. Engaging prospects in one-on-one, in-person conversations is a better way to build credibility with that individual, compared to that of a virtual sales call. Salespeople can travel to a single location for a few days and interact with over 50 people each day. This invariably leads to a greater sales investment when compared to traveling to each prospect individually across the country. If planned appropriately, tradeshows can occur safely within these large spaces.
  2. Fantastic revenue generator for cities:
    One of these multi-day events brings revenue to hotels, restaurants, and other cultural venues, keeping a city’s downtown core alive and thriving.
  3. Virtual call fatigue is setting in:
    We are starting to hit the limits of everyone’s patience for an environment that’s 100% virtual calls. It’s harder to hold attendees’ attention on sales calls, given how easily they can walk away from their computer. Virtual events are also struggling to engage the attendees. Many organizations are finding it incredibly difficult to replicate the excitement and energy, delivery and quality of information of an in-person event to a virtual experience.

“The world doesn’t realize how much the trade show industry contributes to overall. The human touch is not to be overlooked in the face of virtual capabilities. We need to get back to the “human touch” once we can again safely, even though we can’t right now.” Cheryl continues.


Here’s how you can be ready

1.) Quieter, less traveled times don’t call for idleness. It calls for strategic planning.

Many companies are sitting on their hands while “nothing is happening.” Now is your opportunity to get out ahead of your competition. 

  • Start to examine how your key customers are evolving their buying process. While it could migrate toward more virtual experience, it won’t entirely.
  • Your sales team will have a lot of great insights here based upon their 2020 experiences.
  • Use these insights to balance what your hybrid in-person and virtual experiences will be. ADEX can help with balancing the right approach for your company.

It’s time to get re-inspired for your next booth! View an array of our custom booths to inspire your next design by clicking here

2.) While in-person events will be back, it won’t be the only avenue for your company’s growth.

All companies will start to use virtual more and more since their buyers are finding that it is convenient, in some instances, to explore offerings without being there in person.

However, the successful companies will develop a hybrid approach which encompasses both an in-person strategy as well as a complementary digital, virtual strategy.

Ultimately, successful sales teams will adapt to meet their customers’ needs. The good news is that we’re seeing both the benefits and limitations of virtual right now.

View ADEX’s virtual offering page as a reference point for your team to start to consider their hybrid strategy by clicking here.

3.) Don’t overanalyze your current position or try to predict the future.

It’s stressful to think about planning for future shows that may not be finalized just yet.

However, your company will certainly benefit from taking an early strategic approach to their 2021 and 2022 strategy:

  • Analyze how your buyers and customers have evolved their approach to buying products and services like yours. Remember that your sales team is a great source of inspiration here. They will also be eager to contribute in meaningful ways if they can see how this will help them develop their book of business further. Work together to develop an educational experience for your key buyers.
  • Determine what level of in-person and virtual experiences you should create with the help of your sales team. Having a thriving virtual strategy is going to help your sales team both immediately, while shows are still down, as well as into the future, when an in-person and virtual hybrid approach will be necessary to grow.
  • Speak with ADEX about the best way to approach your upcoming in-person and virtual tradeshow experience. We have seen first-hand the power that virtual can have, especially when complemented by an in-person strategy. We can help you prioritize your first steps and get you started with a program to develop an incredible growth platform for the next 1-2 years.

Regardless of where your organization is today, the future looks bright. We’re here to help you develop the right approach for your organization. No two companies are alike and we pride ourselves on this customized hybrid strategy we have already begun to implement with our partners.

You can read the full original New York Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/02/business/dealbook/convention-centers-coronavirus.html

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