Future Forecast: Partly Sunny & Warming

Future Forecast: Partly Sunny & Warming 

Seth Godin (one of my favorite bloggers and business strategists) wrote a recent blog about how meteorologists on TV spend most of their time talking about how the weather is right now. That’s good to know. But, what people MOST want to know is what is going to happen in the FUTURE.  

The Need to Predict 

Well, it’s certainly difficult to predict the future of industry and business, just like it’s difficult to predict the weather. I believe many of us can relate to wanting (actually, needing) to know what is going to happen in the immediate or the short term future for the trade show and event industry. Every day, we’re making decisions based on what we believe is going to happen, but we’re chasing a moving target. 

With that in mind, I want to take a moment to share my views on an industry outlook that I believe is “partly sunny & warming.” 

This time last year, things were continuing to grow increasingly worse with the pandemic, and we really didn’t know how bad it was going to get. Recently, things have started to improve and look like some kind of normal. But, is it going to be sustainable especially in the face of the Delta variant surge?  

Here is my basic prediction: even though some trade shows and events will be canceled in the coming weeks and months, they should not be nearly as drastic as what we saw last year (2020).  

Why It Will Be Different? 

  • More Calculated Responses: Last year, some people and organizations may have over-reacted to a degree (not placing any blame). Some were forced to cancel, and some even panicked. But, since we have been down this road recently, we have an acute awareness of the impact those cancellations will have. I believe that reactions will be more measured, calculated, and less drastic this time.  

  • Zoom Gloom: As much as I am all for virtual events and experiences, they are not (yet) as powerful and effective as in-person experiences. Most people seem to agree that virtual is less than ideal as a complete substitute for major events. So, there is a resistance to going down that path again with a “virtual-only” type of experience. A recent survey indicated that 77% of business travelers would prefer to attend in person vs. a virtual event.

  • Vaccination Levels: We now have a great number of people within the USA who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, or who have developed antibodies, and are less likely to become infected. That brings a welcomed feeling of improved security which we did not have last year. 

  • Safety Measures: We also have a wide range of safety measures, rapid testing, protocols, and practices which have proven to be very effective in reducing the spread, while still allowing people to be together and interact in person. Some major shows, such as CES, have determined that they can mandate vaccinations for in-person attendance, which creates a very safe environment. 

  • Widespread Knowledge: Scientists, doctors, and individuals are learning more about COVID-19 every single hour of the day, which is helping us to know how to avoid it, treat it, and plan for it. We also have good tracking data which shows where the delta variant is peaking and spreading, and how quickly. 

  • Regions of Normal: Some regions of the country are completely back to “normal” in the sense that there are NO restrictions of any kind on safety measures, gathering sizes or the like. Attitudes and outlooks vary widely from state to state, business to business, and even person to person. In many regions, events are happening successfully and are demonstrating that they can be done safely. 

  • Pent-Up Demand: There continues to be a strong pent-up demand for in-person interactions and experiences, with many being quite desperate to resume what was once considered “normal” behavior. A recent survey indicated that nearly all business travelers (91%) indicate that they miss the face-to-face interaction of in-person business meetings and events.  

  • Desperate Organizers: Many show organizers have been ruined, or nearly ruined financially because of event cancellations and the rippling effects those caused. Some of them cannot afford to cancel their major show for another time. Canceling will end their association or business. They are desperate and have the outlook that the “show must go on!

Futurist, Not a Meteorologist 

Harkening back to Seth’s blog again, he concludes with this thought: “We don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but figuring out how it’s going to blow tomorrow is a great skill.”  

So, trying to rise to the challenge, along with all of these factors in mind, my outlook is somewhat optimistic for the remainder of 2021, with a significant improvement coming in 2022.  

There have been and will certainly be some additional cancelations in the coming weeks and months. But, there will be more trade shows and events happening this year than there were this time last year. It will not yet be back to 2019 levels. But, it is improving. So, I’m referring to it as “partly sunny and warming!” 

Don’t lose all hope. Better times are coming. I hope that I’m right, but only time will tell for certain.  

Picture of Jeff Hannah

Jeff Hannah

Vice President of Strategy

As a strategist, teacher, and writer at heart, Jeff has a penchant for sharing his insights with our team, clients, and the industry as a whole through blogging, podcasting, and speaking. He is a forward-thinker and is constantly charting a course to navigate the waters of change. He is also our resident student of the world, a veritable endless wealth of knowledge about cross-cultural interactions, international business, and travel. An award-winning designer and serial entrepreneur, he founded companies in several countries, gaining powerful insights throughout his career working with global organizations.
As VP of Strategy, Jeff is focused on developing visions and strategic plans to expand ECI’s current offerings, develop new ones, and refine our organizational infrastructure, culture, and processes. He also helps clients develop a comprehensive, integrated, and strategic approach to their programs. Jeff is the executive sponsor of ECI University, where he develops content and teaches our growing global team. He is also a recognized expert in the global trade show industry, and is a faculty member of the CTSM (Certified Trade Show Marketer) Program.


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