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Survey results for consumer events: a very mixed bag

It should come as no surprise that the results of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Public Events Council 2009 survey of consumer event organizers reveals a very ‘mixed bag’ of results.

While 50 percent of respondents cancelled at least one event in 2009 due to economic circumstances, and 44 percent were forced to lay off employees, 12 percent of the events conducted in 2009 were new launches and more than two-thirds of the new events met or exceeded organizers’ expectations.

Among the sectors meeting or exceeding the expectations of organizers were many agriculture/farm/ranch shows as well as events addressing interests such as craft/hobby/woodworking; food and beverage, home and garden, kids/family/ lifestyles/pets and sportsman/hunting/outdoors categories.

“Times are better than indicators in the event industry,” said Ken Loyst of World of Wine Events and co-producer of The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival in an independent report. “We’ve doubled in attendance each year for the past five years. This year we raised prices 25 percent and are 20 percent ahead in ticket sales.”

Marketplace Events which conducts many home and garden events in North America is upbeat about their 2010 events. They predict that their 2010 shows will be much stronger than the 2009 season based on solid attendance increases at four of their first five home shows this fall. Shows in Orlando, Calgary, Jacksonville and Toronto, which took place over the last three weekends in September, all resulted in significantly increased attendance.

No surprise, events serving the recreational vehicle, boating/marine, automobile, and antiques/collectibles sectors did not generally meet organizers’ expectations. However, in recent weeks reports coming to IAEE from the recreational vehicle sector suggest that a rather robust rebound, which typically signals a recovery from economic recession, is now underway – this despite continuing and very serious weakness in RV dealer showroom sales. Organizers of RV shows say that the wider choices and education and learning opportunities that RV shows provide to the consuming public as well as their absolute need to promote their events accounts for their results when contrasted to RV dealer lots.

The three most important issues facing the organizers of public events according to survey respondents are, in order; the economy, a decline in sponsorship dollars and exhibitors waiting too long to commit.

Despite these concerns, only 7 percent are pessimistic about 2010 events while 53 percent said they were either optimistic or very optimistic about their events next year and 40 percent plan to launch new events in 2010. Interestingly, 60 percent believe sponsorship revenues will either remain the same or increase in the next year.

Of particular interest, an overwhelming majority of organizers, ninety-three percent, report that exhibitors are waiting longer to commit to purchasing exhibit space.

Paul Schweitzer of Marketplace Events LLC and Chairman of IAEE’s Public Events Council, pointed out that the learning track dedicated to public event organizers that takes place during Expo! Expo! 2009 in from Dec. 8-10 in Atlanta was planned to address the most urgent current needs of organizers and includes sessions such as “Selling Exhibit Space for Public Shows During These Tough Economic Times,” “Managing Public Relations for Success in a Turbulent Time,” “Selling Sponsorships in the Current Economy” and “Marketing Public Shows in the Midst of a Media Revolution.”

“Despite the awful economy, there are many ways that organizers can ensure the stability and even growth of their events,” Schweitzer added. “Comparing field tested solutions with other organizers has always been the most valuable aspect of my involvement in IAEE.”
Ten percent of IAEE public event organizers reported the results of 131 of their events in this year’s public events survey. To view the entire survey, visit the Web site at www.iaee.com.

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