Shifting Spend: Exhibit Marketers Face Budget Challenges Amid Global Inflation

July 10, 2023

Exhibitions remain a valued sales and marketing channel among event teams and their senior leadership, but global inflation — along with increasing exhibit costs — is changing the way budgets are distributed between events or decreasing per-event spend on in-person events in 2023, according to a Exhibit Leader Insights 2023 report released in June. Budget cuts for exhibit-related activities may be looming for those who are struggling to demonstrate exhibit ROI against business and commercial objectives. 

Findings from the report shed light on the dynamic nature of exhibit marketing in 2023. Key statistics include: 

  • 70% exhibitors agree that their organization’s leadership sees exhibits as a “valuable, irreplaceable” part of the marketing mix.
  • 94% of the exhibitors surveyed expect some level of change to their exhibit programs in the next three years. 
  • 82% of those planning to exhibit at fewer in-person shows said exhibit-related costs were a factor in their decision. 
  • 61% of exhibitors said previous experience at a show is a key factor in their decision to exhibit. 
  • Exhibitors’ inability to demonstrate event ROI to senior leadership is the greatest internal challenge after budget pressures.
  • While many senior leaders view exhibits as a valuable marketing channel, 30% are now unconvinced they are essential.

“Our clients are shifting their strategy towards prioritizing quality over quantity,” said Jay Menashe, senior vice president sales and marketing for EDE, an exhibit design firm that produced a 17,000-square-foot booth for DN Solutions at IMTS. “Instead of participating in more than 25 trade shows annually, one client has decided to allocate a larger budget towards seven carefully selected trade shows, aiming to optimize their return by reaching a more specific and targeted audience.”

Conducted by Explori in collaboration with The Exhibitor Advocate and Exhibitor Group, the report is the culmination of quantitative research and represents findings from 255 exhibit marketers currently running event programs for organizations of all sizes covering a range of industries. 

“Many of our clients amongst both exhibition organizers and corporate event teams have expressed real concerns over the current inflationary conditions,” said Mark Brewster, CEO for Explori, a feedback platform and full-service research agency. “There is little doubt that the demand for in-person is high, and trade shows have bounced back with a vengeance. However, the research identifies a friction between the spiraling costs of exhibit programs and pressures on budgets with the absence of measurement data on the real value exhibitions have on achieving business objectives.” 

Jessica Sibila, executive director of The Exhibitor Advocate, an association dedicated to supporting exhibit marketers, added, "This report is a game-changer for the exhibit marketing industry. It offers a comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities faced by exhibit marketers and provides actionable recommendations to drive success."

Download the report here.

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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