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The Impact of Inflation on Trade Shows

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

In today's ever-changing economic landscape, businesses must stay informed and adaptive to fluctuating tides. One such tide that continues to make waves is inflation.

With inflation skyrocketing globally, essential items like food, energy, clothing, and household products are becoming pricier. This phenomenon has not spared U.S. trade show organizers who are grappling with increasing costs in various event components like transportation, hotels, venues, food and beverages, speakers, and labour across the country and abroad.


This article sheds light on the viewpoints of two leading trade show experts. Herein, they explore how inflation is affecting their events, the measures they're employing to counterbalance the escalating costs, and what advice they offer to show organizers in navigating the financial hurdles of hosting events in today's economic climate.

Q1. How has inflation influenced your overall events business, and what steps is your organization taking to counteract the rising costs involved in organizing trade shows?

David DuBois, President and CEO of IAEE: Economic shifts like inflation are keenly felt among associations as budgets are invariably lean. Consequently, organizers and suppliers need to collaborate more closely through partnerships to guarantee success for both parties. We respond to these economic circumstances in multiple ways – reviewing agreements, and persisting with the RFP process for key aspects of our primary objectives. Since resources are scarcer for associations, inviting proposals enables us to level the playing field and foster increased competition. Most crucially, our team makes innovative decisions whenever necessary.

Sarin Bachmann, Group Vice President of RX Jewellery Portfolio: Inflation has undoubtedly had an impact on our business costs as it has for everyone else. We can alleviate some effects through long-term agreements that we previously negotiated with our larger vendors. Our size also comes into play; RX has many contracts across our shows which helps us leverage economies of scale as a prominent operator. Nevertheless, both we and our exhibitors continue to bear the brunt of sharply rising expenses.

Q2. In which particular aspects of your events has inflation impacted the most, and what methods have you employed to cope with it? Additionally, where have you made cutbacks and how have you compensated for those reductions to prevent a negative effect on the attendee experience?

DuBois: The areas where we've felt the impact include supply chain complications, disruptions in food and beverage and AV services, travel expenses for event stakeholders, as well as shipping and labour (both temporary and regular staff). We have devised distinct contingency plans to tackle each issue. For instance, we might offer reduced registration fees to expand attendee programs or collaborate with airlines to provide discounts and hotels for lowered room rates.

Bachmann: We're experiencing inflation primarily in labour and catering costs. It also adversely affects our exhibitors since many expenses they encounter at trade shows are beyond our control and not paid to organizers. Several shows are losing exhibitors due to the escalating expenses related to exhibiting. As for costs within our control, it's crucial not to make any cutbacks that would harm the attendee experience, particularly during the return of live events. We're investing heavily in enhancing the attendee experience.

Q3. What key advice would you give event professionals for effectively handling inflation while still organizing successful events that attendees find valuable?

DuBois: Our members consistently report having multiple tiers of contingency plans for every aspect of their events. As the landscape stabilizes gradually, it's essential not to take any aspect of event planning lightly.

Bachmann: Avoid compromising on attendee experience. Aim for favorable long-term contracts and try to offset inflationary cost increases through increased sales volume rather than significant price hikes whenever feasible.

Q4. In light of inflation concerns, how can event professionals effectively plan for the near future?

DuBois: Collaborate with your caterer on inventive methods for presenting food and drinks to keep expenses low. Work alongside the venue to minimize room resets. Coordinate with your contractors and other service providers to find ways to cut costs. Additionally, I continually emphasize the importance of contingency plans and RFPs. This approach helps in acquiring new partners, accessing innovative solutions, and maintaining a competitive edge.

No one has the ability to foresee the future. As an organizer and association leader, it's vital to examine market conditions and trust economic forecasts from specialists. However, even at the association level, be prepared with contingency plans and alternative revenue sources for prompt implementation.

Bachmann: Initiate conversations with vendors early in the planning process to discover their price increases and secure favourable rates. Contemplate entering a long-term contract to avoid substantial rises all at once. Remember that event management is a long-term investment rather than a short-term focus. Refrain from cutting corners in areas that would impact your clients' experience. Scrutinize the budget to identify components that can be reduced or removed without affecting customer value.

Anticipate steady increases in venue, goods, and services costs over time. Prioritize exhibitors' and attendees' needs when creating budgets and making decisions, acknowledging that expenses will continually rise, incorporating this factor into strategic planning. Consider all aspects of attendee experiences—from registration and travel to on-site activities and events—when addressing inflated costs. Explore options for securing travel discounts and providing hosting packages for key attendees during periods of inflation. The more vendors work with show management to keep costs reasonable for exhibitors, the more extensive our shows can be – benefitting everyone in the trade show industry.

In today's fast-paced business world, understanding the impact of inflation on trade shows can be a game-changer for your company. As a savvy business professional, you can't afford to miss this eye-opening exploration into the world of trade shows and inflation. So, buckle up and get ready to dive deep into how these two forces intertwine and affect your bottom line. Don't let inflation catch you off guard – read on and stay ahead of the curve!

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