May 29, 2024 7:55 PM
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Revolutionizing Tradeshow Experiences

GES’s Journey Towards Predictability and Transparency

by Chris Kappes, Exhibit City News

 

Surprise is the bane of tradeshows.

Ask exhibitors what they fear most, and the top replies are unpredictability and lack of transparency. Recognizing this, GES, under the leadership of President Jeff Quade, undertook a comprehensive review of its operations. “Catalyzed by the pandemic, we had a chance to take a fresh look at our business practices and identified the need for simplicity and transparency in our business operations,” shared Quade.  But change has been a constant for GES as it adapts to better serve show organizers and exhibitors.

THE EVOLUTION

Founded as The Greyhound Company in 1930, GES evolved significantly through acquisitions of regional exhibitor service organizations, exhibit and electrical firms, AV suppliers and travel planning companies. Along the way, it divested non-core businesses and was renamed GES in 2018. The organization now orchestrates over 3600 exhibitions and conferences worldwide, boasting a revenue of $614 million in 2023.  In short, GES is one of the top two (Freeman the other) global tradeshow and exhibition companies operating under VIAD, along with Spiro, Experiential Marketing Agency (see ECN April feature) and Pursuit, an attraction and hospitality company. Viad is a publicly traded corporation on the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol VVI.

BRINGING PREDICTABILITY TO EXHIBITING

Based upon its research, Quade and team discovered that sixty-five percent of tradeshow planners are new to their jobs and legacy pricing didn’t make sense. “It was overcomplicated,” Quade shared. “So, we leaned out our organization, streamlined pricing structures, product options, and ordering processes.” The result was six new programs under the GES+ Series:  Hanging Signs+℠, Electrical+ ℠,  Material Handling+ ℠, Furnishings+℠,  Flooring+℠, and GES Exhibit Systems+℠. According to Quade, these programs help to bring pricing predictability and transparency to the show organizer and exhibitor. “We need to lead with empathy,” he shares. “These program changes demonstrate that we listen to our customers and adapt.”

CREATING BETTER EXPERIENCES

Next on Quade’s list…crafting better experiences for the show organizer and exhibitor.  “Organizers look for us to help them create better experiences on the show floor to prove the power of being there in-person,” Quade explains. “At the end of the day, the exhibitor and attendee don’t care what badge a person is wearing.  The event community in total is responsible for a great experience and that begins and ends with people and culture.”

Quade points to the VIAD ESG program as a guiding light for doing what’s right for its business. ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is a set of standards and way for businesses to prove to investors, customers and employees that they’re acting in the best interests of the planet and society.

As of 2020, 88% of publicly traded companies have ESG guidelines. VIAD’s ESG guidelines, available on its website, focus on investing in people, reducing environmental impact and honoring communities. “We’ve done a lot of work on ESG coming out of the pandemic to make GES a place that people want to work and grow. People that love where they work will do a great job for our clients.”

WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS IMPROVED

ESG is a key tool for show organizers to compare performance analytics year to year. Sustainability is one of the key analytics and GES earned the silver certification for sustainability from EIC Sustainable Event Standards, a collection of eight (8) specific standards that assess events and industry suppliers on a wide range of sustainability criteria in support of environmental and social responsibility. “We are the first and only contractor to receive this award, “shared Quade. “We work with convention venues to quantify what post-show waste can be reused, diverted from landfills and what goes to a landfill. What can’t be diverted to landfill (physical assets in most cases) is donated to local charitable organizations. We want to do what’s right, not what’s required. This means being a good steward to our organizer clients and their communities.”

WHAT’S AHEAD

The outlook for GES is bright as their investor guidance estimates a low-double digit revenue increase for the full year 2024. This is attributed to incremental revenue from non-annual shows, strong demand for experiential marketing (SpiroTM) and exhibition management services, and increased sizes of exhibitions and events. “Our office is your show-site,” adds Quade. An appropriate response to add predictability and transparency for the exhibition community.

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