Welcome to Trade Shows in 2023: 8 Key Industry Predictions and Exhibit Trends

A brand-new report from IBIS World tells a very positive story about what we can expect from trade shows in 2023.
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No one has a crystal ball. I know, it’s kind of a bummer. It means that we have to rely on other methods when preparing for an uncertain future, such as data, experience, instinct, and reason. What can exhibitors and industry professionals expect from trade shows in 2023? You’ve come to the right place to get the best idea.  

Event professionals have been repeatedly saying, “trade shows are back” for the last two years. It’s almost like they were trying to speak into existence some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. The thing is… it seems to have worked!

Last year, big industry shows like SHOT, SEMA, and MRO Americas, either sold out floor plans or expanded into bigger venues. Attendance skyrocketed. So far, trade shows in 2023 are continuing the trend.

Here are our top 8 industry predictions and exhibit trends for trade shows in 2023. 

1. Revenue growth will surpass pre-pandemic levels 

IBIS World published an insightful 2023 report on trade shows and conference planning in the US. The report rightly points out that the events industry (especially the major national trade shows) depends on the recovery of domestic travel and corporate profits. Thankfully, both are rebounding.  

According to the IBIS Report, the trade show and conference industry  

  • Grew at a CAGR of .9% to $21.7 billion over the last five years, including a growth of 5% in 2023 
  • Revenue is expected to continue growing over the next five years at a CAGR of 1.6% to $25.5 billion 

To lend perspective, the industry produced $21.9 billion in revenue in 2019. We are predicting 2023 to surpass 2019 in revenue.  

2. Private investments in convention centers will grow

The fact that events are rebounding is not lost on event organizers and convention center operators. There are long-term benefits for cities and businesses to invest in public and private conference centers. 

Last month, for example, the master plan for the new Dallas Convention Center was unveiled. The project would cost around $3 billion, with a projected completion date in 2028. The plan will be voted on this November.  

3. Digital marketing will play a greater role in shaping live events 

Trade shows are back, but they’re also different. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports that businesses were forced to find alternative ways to meet business objectives without in-person events during the pandemic. This meant shifting marketing and sales efforts to digital platforms. 

The time away from face-to-face gatherings also gave event organizers time to reassess their process for checking in, scanning badges, and live streaming. Most of the biggest shows are now permanently including an option to attend the event virtually. 

4. Industry participation will rise 

There is a trade show for every industry and sector. This means event professionals have a highly diverse clientele with very different needs. IBIS World reports that the barrier of entry into the events industry is low.  

This has several implications. First, a lot of job opportunities are available, from production and sales to design and project management. Second, there are opportunities for new business entities to enter the market.  

The estimated profit margin for the industry over the next five years is over 6%! 

5. Big industry trade shows will get bigger with mergers and acquisitions  

This has been a trend for several years now. For example, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the International Builder’s Show (IBS) run concurrently during the National Design & Construction Week. 

For example, Informa Markets recently acquired Tarsus in the largest post-pandemic exhibition deal.  

6. Startups and small business participation will increase  

While digital marketing is becoming an increasingly dominant channel for conducting business, small startups still see promising opportunities from attending events. For example, CEIR reveals that can exhibitors identify multiple value propositions unique to attending events. The top five include 

  • Face-to-face meeting with prospects and customers  
  • Ability to see large # of prospects and customers in a short period of time  
  • Ability to meet with wide variety of players  
  • Chance for prospects and customers to interact with, experience new products  
  • Opportunity to demonstrate new and existing products 

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Tulip Cooking is a startup attending KBIS for the first time. Michael Walker, President of Tulip Cooking, says, “Being a new company, it’s very important for us to make a big splash at KBIS.” Their biggest goal for exhibiting at KBIS was to raise brand awareness. Walker adds, “Before we came to the show, we worked with the KBIS app to make sure we were making the right connections, and we were big on social media.”   

7. There will be more exhibits with meeting rooms and lounges  

Because of the renewed appreciation for face-to-face meetings, more businesses are including meeting rooms and lounges in their exhibit designs. Meeting rooms provide a sanctuary from noisy, crowded show floors and give prospects a VIP experience.  

Sponsored lounge areas are also increasing in popularity. At a trade show, peoples’ feet start hurting after just one day of walking on hard concrete. A rest area, sponsored by exhibitors, signals to prospects that they are ready to provide for their needs.  

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8. We will see the birth of a new renaissance in exhibit design  

People missed events and traveling. Corporate profits are growing. Canceled events gave time to reassess exhibit strategies. A renaissance normally follows interest in the past. And people are interested in getting back together and experiencing new things in new environments like they used to.  

We’ve already seen some amazing, breakthrough designs this year. This may be the most exciting of the trends for trade shows in 2023.  

The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585.   

Cameron Wilkinson is a writer and editor in Dallas, TX. His writing for the events industry pairs with his interests in sales and marketing. He also holds a B.A. in English Literature form the University of North Texas.  

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