CEIR June Survey Finds COVID-19 Impact on U.S. B2B Exhibitions Worsening and Growing

Shifts to Digital While Industry on Pause

DALLAS, 1 July 2020 – The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the results of its latest poll tracking the impact COVID-19 is having on the U.S. business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry during a free webinar held yesterday.

“The persistence of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of whether events can take place in their scheduled destinations are forcing an increasing number of U.S. B2B exhibition organizers to either postpone their events to late 2020/early 2021 or cancel them entirely,” noted CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM. “This trend is devasting to an industry that contributed over $101 billion to the U.S. GDP last year. CEIR provides valuable impact information to both Exhibitions Mean Business and the Go LIVE Together initiatives for use in advocating for the industry to Congress.”

CEIR Vice President of Research Nancy Drapeau, PRC added, “The top two reasons speak to the chaos of the current situation, as 74% of those forced to cancel say the lack of clarity in knowing whether large group meetings will be allowed to take place at the scheduled time due to state and local lockdown orders prompted them to this decision. IMTS scheduled to take place in Chicago is a prime example. In addition, many organizers (69%) attribute the persistence of corporate ‘no travel’ policies and the impact they might have on participation levels as a reason for foregoing a 2020 in-person event.”

Source: CEIR 2020 June Update on Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. B2B Exhibition Organizations

Shift to Digital is Growing While the Industry is Paused

Exhibition organizers are doing all that they can to defend the health of their organizations and serve the needs of their communities in the midst of this crisis. A new question CEIR’s June survey posed to organizers that have postponed an event is whether they have added a hybrid or virtual component to these events. Responses reflect that 63% have, with 44% giving attendees the option to attend in-person or virtually and the same percentage (44%) having a virtual event backup plan in the event they are forced to cancel at the last minute.

Source: CEIR 2020 June Update on Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. B2B Exhibition Organizations

Among organizers forced to cancel 2020 events, the shift to digital has grown to 81%, compared to 69% in the April survey. What is most notable is the increase in full virtual trade shows, 41% compared to 15% in the April survey.

Source: CEIR 2020 June Update on Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. B2B Exhibition Organizations

The June survey also profiles data on gross revenues retained and gained from efforts to move participants of canceled events to digital options or other face-to-face (F2F) events offered by an organizer. It also explores the revenue outlook for virtual events, whether there was a fee to attend, and whether these organizers sought revenues via sponsorship and virtual booth sales. Lastly, it quantifies which tactics and strategies executives plan to undertake moving forward, in a post-COVID world.

This webinar also provides commentary and case study sharing by two event organizers who participated in the event: Brian Cuthbert, Group Vice President of Diversified Communications and Rochelle Richardson, CEM, Senior Vice President, Exposition and Event Services at AVIXA InfoComm USA. Richardson shared lessons learned from the recent launch of AVIXA’s virtual event, InfoComm 2020 Connected, that took place two weeks ago.


CEIR’s most recent survey was fielded on 9-21 June 2020, inviting executives with oversight of U.S. B2B exhibitions run or managed by their organizations to respond. A total of 169 executives participated, similar to the level of participation generated in the April survey, which includes a sample of 164 executives. The June sample was generated from qualified members from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO), and Trade Show News Network (TSNN) subscribers.

A full report of survey results is available in the webinar deck downloadable at no cost on the CEIR online store. Click here to download the full webinar presentation. Be sure to save the date for CEIR’s next webinar on 15 July 2020, which is also free to attend. During this webinar – moderated by CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM – CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw will update his perspective on COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. economy and B2B exhibition industry. Click here to register.

The annual CEIR Predict Conference will be held 22 September 2020 at the MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C. Predict will provide insights into the performance of the exhibitions industry and a forecast through year-end, along with an economic presentation by Alex Chausovsky of ITR Economics discussing how world events are expected to impact the global economy. Registration for the CEIR Predict Conference is now open, and complete details are available here.

About CEIR
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) serves to advance the growth, awareness and value of exhibitions and other face-to-face marketing events by producing and delivering knowledge-based research tools that enable stakeholder organizations to enhance their ability to meet current and emerging customer needs, improve their business performance, and strengthen their competitive position. For additional information, visit www.ceir.org.


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