By Mary Tucker, CEIR Sr. Communications & Content Manager
This year’s Predict, CEIR’s Annual Exhibition Industry Outlook Conference was held on 29-30 August, where executives in the business-to-business (B2B) exhibitions industry learned about emerging trends likely to impact the industry in the next three to five years. Designed with an outward-looking approach, Predict features experts both inside and outside of the exhibitions industry for a 360-degree deep dive into the macro trends and global policies that have real world effects on the business of events.
Topics at this year’s event included Through a Consumer Centric Lens: Using Mega and Micro-Generational Trends to Better Understand Your Markets presented by Armida Ascano, Consumer Behavior and Generational Trends Expert, Futurist, and Chief Insights Officer at Trend Hunter; Establishing Competitive Advantage: Implementing a Customer Centricity Model presented by Peter Fader, Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and A Look Back and The Road Ahead: Unveiling Insights for Tomorrow’s World presented by Dr. Sam Potolicchio, President, Preparing Global Leaders Forum and Founding Executive Director, Center For Global Leadership at American Councils.
Here, 2023 CEIR Chairperson Marie Browne shares with readers some of the top insights she gained at these sessions and why she considers Predict an essential event for executive leaders who seek to create better and more engaging events to increase their bottom line.
CEIR: Let’s start with Armida’s presentation, in which she broke down today’s four generations into nine micro generations. She discussed how the pandemic impacted all the generations, and introduced a new set of motivations and changes to what makes a person happy. For example, she reported that 75 percent of teens say COVID-19 has had the biggest impact on their world views and/or opened their eyes to how things really work while 60 percent of Gen Z say that their brand loyalty has changed over the pandemic. What stood out to you the most about these statistics?
Marie: Yes, Armida offered hundreds of fascinating insights including very actionable ones about GenZ (both Z Alpha born between 2010 and today and Z Tribe born 1999-2009). A key takeaway for me was that you must align your events with their values. This generation will seek more ethical alternatives, so the social benefits of a brand must be a core value of our shows, the venues and cities in which we operate, and our exhibiting customers. She made it clear that making the world a better place must be part of our value propositions and a fleeting CSR plan will not win you brand loyalty. In fact, children aged 6-9 say saving the planet will be the “central mission” of their careers in the future.
CEIR: She also explored the differences between younger and older generations in terms of educational content, and how younger generations are more passionate about what they’re doing noting it is key to create content onsite that is relevant and timely as well as generating ad hoc experiences from that content in real time. How do you interpret this from the exhibition organizer’s viewpoint?
Marie: This is a critical learning for all of us. We are responding to this insight at RX by investing more effort, time, and resources to our education and content offerings. The younger generation wants more professional development opportunities as well experiences that will create meaningful connections with colleagues. It is important that we think beyond the buying experience on the show floor and informal cocktail receptions for networking.
CEIR: In his presentation, Dr. Peter Fader advised attendees to remember that not all customers should be treated equally. He explored how to draw the line between high value customers and low value customers, and how much of the resources available should be allocated to each. He advised to focus on quality – not quantity – and retention, noting that the bottom line is finding the magic beans that make those high value customers different. He also stressed finding more ways to achieve growth that simple research and development cannot achieve anymore. How did you interpret his findings?
Marie: His reminder to focus on the few and mighty, and to lean into those that are more inclined to do things with us – in other words, really lean into the “promoters” and less so into the “detractors” resonated with me. I agree that we need to increasingly leverage data, analytics, and technology to gain an understanding of who those customers are and what they want from our shows. This discipline and focus will allow us to break out of the pack and gain competitive advantage.
CEIR: With regards to skillfully applying data, he accentuated that with the kinds of data analytics and technology available today, we can make this dimension of customer centricity not just a “nice to have,” but a legitimate focus. While companies value all of their customers, their margins differ based on the customer – as in the value the value they bring, not the cost that they incur to do so. He advised to start collecting data on how often customers engage and how much value they bring. In fact, at this stage one would not run any predictive models yet, rather look at the historic behavior to see the bigger picture. How do you see this translating to attendee acquisition moving forward?
Marie: I liked Dr. Fader’s suggestion of measuring a customer’s lifetime value (CLV), which is a prediction of each customer’s profitability over their entire relationship (past and future) with our event(s). It’s about working with your data and finance teams to measure the revenue from each customer as well as their engagement. From an attendee acquisition perspective, I think it can help increase retention and dollars spent with us in addition to using data (vs. anecdotes) to build successful loyalty programs. All easier said than done but as you say, data analytics is not just a “nice to have,” it must be a focus.
CEIR: Dr. Sam Potolicchio is very popular with Predict attendees and, once again, had Predict attendees frantically taking notes on his predictions and insights on everything from the presidential election to AI. What information stood out to you the most?
Marie: I was particularly interested in his insights on how the deflationary trends (2010-2020) have created more fragile inflationary trends (2020-2030). Multiple shifts are impacting our businesses and lives. Trade has shifted from offshoring to reshoring, therefore the mindset has shifted from “just in time” to “just in case.” Additionally, energy shifted from a fracking revolution to a discouragement of fossil fuels. These were just a few examples of shifts that can have both positive and negative implications. My greatest takeaway from this is that regardless of the outcome, understanding these macro-economic factors makes us more informed decision-makers regarding the future of our businesses and events.
CEIR: He also talked about optimism, in the sense that the world is not going to be as bleak as some are forecasting. He noted that we are living at the highest level of uncertainty and urged attendees to think about what they can do with this uncertainty. He then channeled Tony Robbins by encouraging attendees to be “up-shifters.” How will you act on this advice?
Marie: I will join Sam in channeling Tony Robbins to become an “up-shifter” during uncertain times. There are simple things we can all do – stop worrying about the uncontrollable and create headspace for what can be controlled, and keep a flexible and growth mindset to navigate uncertainties to create opportunities. And, of course, surround yourself with like-minded people and support each other when the uncertainties become scary. The pandemic is proof that our industry is pretty good at this!
Save the date for 12-13 September 2024 for Predict, CEIR’s Annual Exhibition Industry Outlook Conference at MGM National Harbor. Stay tuned here for more details!