Outlook From the C-Suite: Trade Show Industry Leaders Share Their Biggest Business Concerns

December 13, 2023

Geopolitics and political uncertainty now pose the greatest risk to business growth, according to a recent survey of more than 1,300 CEOs of the world’s largest businesses. The persistent flux in global politics, trade dynamics and international relations has required a new level of resilience from business leaders, who have been tasked with re-assessing their strategic priorities, focusing on the rise of generative AI, talent management and elevated stakeholder expectations in addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. 

Derived from the KPMG 2023 CEO Outlookthe annual survey conducted by KPMG International that provides unique insights into the mindset, strategies and planning tactics of CEOs — these results also show that while confidence in the global economic outlook over the next three years remains broadly unchanged since the 2022 survey (73% compared to 71% last year), there has been a significant shift across CEOs’ views on what constitutes a risk to their business.

The greatest risks these CEOs cited in 2023 include:

  • Geopolitics and political uncertainty
  • Operational issues
  • Emerging/disruptive technology
  • Supply chain
  • Regulatory concerns
  • Environmental/climate change
  • Interest rates
  • Cybersecurity
  • Reputational risk
  • Talent

So how do these risks resonate with trade show and events CEOs? TSNN asked several leading event industry leaders what their top business concerns are now and moving into 2024, and how they and their organization are addressing them. In Part One of our series, we share the perspectives of CEOs from two leading global trade show organizers, and in the coming weeks, we will share perspectives from C-level executives who represent contractors, experiential marketing agencies and venues.

Hugh Jones, CEO, RX

Biggest concern: Environment and climate change

I share all these concerns. With regards to the environment and climate change, this is one that we can impact on multiple fronts. At RX and throughout the events landscape, we are making great strides in this area, which is a testament to our industry’s perseverance

2022 was the year the industry made its commitment to bringing sustainability to our shows and to our customers. In 2023, we have accelerated our efforts to measure our carbon footprint, including emissions data from shows at our top 30 venues. We share best practices among shows so that our customers can benefit from the ideas and innovations across sectors. 

Hugh Jones, RX

In February, we launched  RX’s new Sustainability Playbook to inform and support our event and operations teams to make more sustainable event choices, and this November we launched our RX Net Zero Carbon Events roadmap, which sets out our pathway to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040.  

Events offer the efficiency of bringing everyone together at one time. We are working with our sectors across the business to help them with their individual sustainability missions, and we’ve already seen phenomenal changes to the way our venues, events, teams, visitors and exhibitors are working. It’s such an important topic, and one where we know we can really make a difference.

As I mentioned in a recent RELX podcast, we believe that in the future, fewer people will go to exhibitions, but those people will have more buying power. What I mean by that is because of ESG conflicts, carbon footprints and tightening spend on business travel, the idea of business tourism — you get to do this job, and if you do it well, you get to go to the fun trade show – that will probably die out. More senior people will go to the trade shows, and they will be coming with very senior points of view to do big business. You might not send 50 people to a trade show as a bit of a perk. You might send 10 instead to build business.

Seeing full trade shows and not being able to see what used to be carpet beneath their feet is no longer a good barometer of a good trade show. A good trade show's barometer is not how many square meters or feet an exhibitor takes. The barometer is how much business is done. There will still be fun and networking, but that will change. The face of trade shows will change to be a more serious place where business is done. That is for sure. It is our duty as a trade show not to put on the same old show every single year, but to place the bets and show the industry what is coming, what is new and what we should pay attention to.

Patrick Martell, CEO, Informa Markets and COO, Informa Group

Biggest concerns: Environment and Disruptive Technologies

Identifying, assessing and managing risks is an ongoing activity at Informa and many of the factors this report identifies will be topics of discussion for businesses of all types and sizes. We all know we are living in a world of higher inflation today than five years ago, and that has caused challenges for some markets and communities. One of the great characteristics of exhibitions is that they help businesses to trade, find customers and build commercial relationships in a very time- and cost-effective way, and this makes trade shows more valuable now than ever before.

Other matters highlighted that resonate with our business include: environmental and climate change – a topic that is of ever-increasing importance to our customers, shareholders and colleagues – and the impact of emerging and disruptive technologies, which are transforming the way we work and do business.

Climate Change: A Driver of Customer Satisfaction

Patrick Martell, Informa

Our customers are becoming more aware of their own carbon footprint and often find our events, which take place in global hubs on major travel routes, act as travel consolidators. By bringing together buyers and suppliers from across the world, allowing them to share knowledge, build relationships and do business – our customers tell us it reduces their need to make multiple trips.

Eighty percent of our customers say they care about sustainability, and we are seeing a strong correlation between making our events more sustainable and an increase in customer satisfaction. Informa’s approach to sustainability is reflected in our Faster Forward strategy, which includes ambitious commitments around our operations, our brands and products and our broader community impact. 

We are working together with our exhibitors and supply chains to move away from disposable stands, together. The Better Stands program aims to replace single-use stands with high-quality, reusable structures made with sustainable materials, in turn helping to reduce the environmental impact of events, delivering a better customer experience, offering commercial benefits as well as mitigating health and safety risks and minimizing waste.

Disruptive Technologies: Opening Up New Opportunities

The COVID pandemic halted our ability to bring audiences together in person overnight, and we had to pivot our offering to customers to provide virtual events and online communities at a pace we’d never seen before. This experience reinforced the need for us to stay at the forefront of technological innovation to ensure we can continually innovate our products, services and the way we do business. 

Disruptive technologies such as generative AI and machine learning create a host of opportunities for our events and our brands, including offering customers more targeted connections, integrating AI into our marketing strategies and the ability to analyze large volumes of customer feedback in more efficient ways. This is an exciting time as we look at how we can apply these technologies to the way we work and create more value for customers.

Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact