Trade Show Industry Leaders Share Their Predictions for 2022 

December 21, 2021

We at TSNN can probably speak for a lot of event industry professionals when we say “good riddance 2021!” with perhaps more gusto than in past years (other than the dumpster fire that was 2020, of course).  

While many of us are likely feeling cautiously optimistic about our industry’s recovery given the global health challenges we still face, in the U.S., in-person trade shows have been steadily making a comeback, attendees and exhibitors are wanting to meet face-to-face again, organizations are hiring in droves, and industry professionals are striking a tone of optimism that we haven’t heard since before the pandemic. All this, bolstered by the fact that shows and venues have proven that face-to-face events can be held safely by adhering to strict health and safety protocols, and 2022 may just turn out to be a year of strong recovery…we hope.  

TSNN had the chance to ask several industry leaders what they predict for the exhibitions industry in 2022. Here’s what they believe we can expect to see in the year ahead. 

David DuBois, President and CEO, IAEE:

In 2022, I predict that the exhibitions and events industry will continue doing everything it can to move our recovery from the pandemic forward by successfully executing face-to-face shows. We, as an industry, have adjusted our processes to do our best to ensure the utmost safety for our attendees and exhibitors while keeping a close watch on ongoing developments. While no one can truly predict or guarantee what the coming year will bring, I do know that we are optimistic and determined to get our industry where it needs to be as quickly as possible. 

Nancy Walsh, President, North America, Informa Markets:

I feel strongly that the exhibition and events industry will rebound significantly in 2022, but that it will also evolve to better meet customer needs in a post-pandemic era. We are already seeing exceptional rebook rates for 2022 shows, and I think the hybridization of those shows with digital complements is a natural evolution.  

We piloted what we are calling “Smart Events” this year and will be launching more Smart Events in 2022. Those offer a virtual wrap-around to an in-person event that includes pre-show discovery and planning, digital registration and on-site digital access, data capture and post-show analysis. We’re really offering our customers the experience they’ve come to expect in their day-to-day lives—the option to participate virtually from wherever they are in the world, to connect and discover year-round, and the opportunity for live participants to research buyers and suppliers pre-show to make the most of their experience onsite. A multi-channel approach that leverages the value of physical platforms complemented by digital solutions that create multiple touchpoints for connection and market access throughout the year is the future of our business. 

David Audrain, CEO of ExpoDevCo, CEO of SISO: 

We are quite optimistic for ExpoDevCo’s events in 2022, sales are progressing well, we are planning to hold all our events we had scheduled for 2022, and we already have a new launch show to add to the portfolio.

From an industry perspective, we are seeing a mixed expectation for 2022 – shows in the U.S. are progressing well, as are shows in the UAE. Shows in Europe were moving forward before the Omicron variant pushed some countries to go back into various forms of lock-down. So the first quarter of 2022 is seeing many cancellations or postponements again in Europe. But most are optimistic that the rest of the year can see shows moving forward as planned. China was doing very well in the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021, then saw a number of lockdowns reintroduced. The hope there is that after the Winter Olympics, we will see a rapid reopening of cities for events. I believe we will see a vast majority of the industry operating most shows at some level in 2022. 

Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group:

I’m probably more bullish than most because the IMEX team and I have just come off a very successful 10th edition of IMEX America, and we’re still on a high from how good it felt to be back in the room and in business with thousands of our community from all over the world. 

I genuinely think the industry’s prospects are good. They need to be slow, steady and meaningful but confidence is needed right now. I also see the demand for face-to-face growing and the term “hybrid” falling away as we learn to simply produce a good event across multiple channels, regardless of what those channels are.

Many planners, like IMEX, now know how to produce a safe, comfortable F2F event experience, and at-scale. Of course, it takes focus, commitment and flexibility but let’s not forget, our industry needs to get back on its feet so that it can make an absolutely critical contribution to widespread economic recovery. If we get consistency, clarity and support from our political leaders, then 2022 will start strong. Our experience at IMEX America showed there’s enormous pent-up demand, but it needs to be released, albeit under carefully controlled conditions. 

Casandra Matej, President & CEO, Visit Orlando:

This year has been the start of a recovery for our entire industry. Current research trends show that full recovery to pre-pandemic levels will not return until 2024. Here in Orlando, we are optimistic, and our entire destination is working fast and furiously to make that happen and in some market segments as soon as 2022. Orlando has been a leader in the meetings industry throughout the recovery, hosting more than 170 events and welcoming more than one million visitors at the Orange County Convention Center alone through the end of 2021. As we move forward, it is our job to not only continue to build confidence in our attendees and visitors, but also showcase the incredible and memorable experiences that only our destination can provide.

Bob Priest-Heck, CEO, Freeman: 

The last 20 months have been challenging, to say the least, for the events industry.  However, as we move into 2022, we have so much opportunity ahead of us, and I like to say, “It’s not about going back; it’s about moving forward.” 2022 will be about quality over quantity. We’re returning to live events, as we saw in 2021, but there are certain areas and trends where we need to focus on the quality, in order to make those experiences matter for the exhibitors and the attendees.  

First, because of the pandemic, we’ve become more homebodies and also tend to be more cautious about travel. It’s important to make attendees feel comfortable and that they have control. We’re all experts now at online shopping, food ordering and digital entertainment, and we’ve become digital connoisseurs who expect flawless experiences. This will translate over to the events where demand for a high-quality experience will not only be expected but also demanded.   

For the first time since the pandemic, data is showing great news for flight booking recovery in some regions across the globe. While people are eager to get back to in-person, most are staying closer to home through domestic flights, which surpassed 2019 volumes in March and continue to grow. We need to rethink global events to better target and reach a newly regionalized audience. We can use this as an opportunity to build more focused and targeted messaging and networking, while also building more sustainable events by reducing air travel and offering virtual options.

Josh Hotsenpiller, Founder and CEO, JUNO:

I see three trends for 2022. The first one is going to be creativity because we still don’t know what the future’s going to look like. We’ve seen wonderful creativity over the last 18–24 months, and it’s not going to stop. Let’s resolve to continue to innovate, to solve global problems and local problems, and connectivity problems.

I predict creative solutions, outside-of-the-box ideas, pushing the envelope to allow people to really understand what the future looks like. Look for people across society, in all industries, to be creative problem-solvers. We resolve to push the boundaries right alongside our clients.  

Secondly, I think community is going to take on a whole new meaning. People that didn’t see each other all that often are now seeing each other regularly on video. And while digital will never replace physical, it’s an incredible enhancement. I’ve made so many new friends over the last 18–24 months where we connected on video, then finally met in person, and it was only enhanced. So I think community marketing and community engagement as a tool for advancing business objectives is only going to grow.

The third trend I predict is mass consolidation, both in companies and in customer spends. I think we are going to see people realizing they don’t need to spend all this money on multiple pieces of tech and learn multiple tools. We’re going to see new tech, new sales strategies, new on-site solutions. And it’s the creative community solutions that I think will win in the consolidation story in 2022. 

Michelle Mason, President and CEO, ASAE:

I see the events industry continuing to bounce back in a big way in 2022, incorporating many of the lessons we learned during the pandemic. So you will see thoughtful, tech-forward, hybrid solutions that include in-person opportunities to connect safely but that are adaptable to any ongoing uncertainties that could complicate a large-scale, traditional face-to-face event.  

With associations and other meetings-dependent organizations continuing to think creatively about their events, there are opportunities to reach a wider audience and satisfy some of the pent-up demand for learning, connecting and community that professionals want and need to be successful.

Steve Moster, President and CEO, Viad; President, GES:

I am optimistic and energized about the future for our businesses and industry. Live events are a critical part of the global economy, and because of the pandemic over the two years, there is a lot of pent-up demand and momentum for experiences. The value created from face-to-face live events is irreplaceable, as it is a powerful way to generate sales and drive brand awareness and loyalty. We see a bright future for GES’ business and the industry, as we plan to resume the regular cadence of event schedules in 2022.

Vaibhav Jain, CEO, Hubilo: 

The pandemic made us realize the limitations and inflexibility of physical events, so in the post-pandemic world where everyone continues to be concerned about health and safety, it’s a no-brainer that hybrid and virtual events are the future. We see these five trends emerging for 2022:  

1.     The metaverse will change expectations for event experiences, as it is here to stay, whether we accept it or not. We will see the acceleration of events as a more significant form of digital content that people want to engage with. 

2.     Experiential events will be their own distinct channel for people to participate in for a variety of event formats—not only for traditional conferences but also for sporting events, concerts, fashion and cooking shows, film festivals, political rallies and much more. 

3.     Asynchronous is in. Traditional boundaries of time and place are out. People will attend events when they want, how they want and for the content they want.

4.     DIY Events. More people will plan events because they have the tools, technology and expertise in one place.

5.     Social activism will be fueled by virtual event tech. It’s not just the digital fluency of Gen Z supporting the rise of social activism through virtual events. It’s also the data-driven nature of political campaigns bolstering the claim that social activism has a digital foothold and will gain strength across virtual event platforms.  


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.