Trade Show Trends of 2022 and Tips for Covering Events in 2023
With the year quickly winding down, we’re looking back at how the trade show industry fared in 2022 – and what that means for the journalists covering shows in 2023.
There were a lot of cautiously optimistic predictions going into the new year: events would regain steam, but more niche trade shows may arise; virtual and hybrid formats would remain, as would concerns about COVID-19; and there would be more of a focus on sustainability, creativity, and quality.
How did the industry stack up? Despite some lingering challenges, trade shows have had a positive year overall – and actually beat many expectations.
2022 Trade Show Trends
Here are the three top trade show trends we observed in 2022:
1. Events are rebounding.
While some shows that took place in Q1 reported tepid numbers, as the year progressed, so did the rise in in-person attendance. Many events enjoyed hosting attendees near pre-pandemic levels, and the camaraderie of after-hours networking surged with the start of summer.
Unsurprisingly, 95% of people prefer live, in-person events to virtual experiences, and the second half of 2022 gave exhibition professionals the opportunity to finally gather at shows again.
2. But they might look a little different.
COVID-19 may have ended up as less of a concern than initially anticipated this year, but that didn’t equate to virtual and hybrid events disappearing entirely.
2022 saw events all over the map handle this year’s uncertainty in myriad ways: some still canceled entirely or moved their exhibition dates, while others kept their original plans or modified their content strategy, but nearly every one adopted some sort of online option.
Event organizers have now made digital programming a standard part of the agenda – which makes shows accessible to a larger number of attendees and media for a longer period of time, and gives exhibitors more options, meaning show-goers can get the best of both worlds.
However, with trade shows back in the spotlight, there’s been more pressure than ever on exhibitors and events alike to deliver value through creativity and quality.
3. The persistence of staffing shortages and climbing costs will continue to shape them.
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and continues to struggle.
The lack of hospitality staff and other community resources that support trade shows coupled with climbing costs is forcing show organizers to be nimble. Exhibitors and attendees alike can be selective with the events they choose to be part of – and for those that make the cut, there will be high expectations.
Therefore, this year’s expected focus on sustainability has taken a bit of a backseat to quality content and experiences. Exhibitors and event organizers are being deliberate with their dollars and have had 2+ years to experiment, which will hopefully continue to elevate the overall trade show experience.
Tips for Covering Events in 2023
We expect to see the events industry remain on this reimagined path throughout 2023. With that in mind, here are three tips to get the most out of the new trade show landscape:
1. Try intentionally covering a different brand.
One of the silver linings we uncovered when studying some of the quieter events from earlier in 2022 was that they brought together companies and journalists who wouldn’t ordinarily have sought each other out. Organizations that often get overlooked or overshadowed by name brands were suddenly getting quality coverage, and reporters were introducing their audiences to new companies and insights they would’ve previously missed out on.
Even if you have your go-to companies, try meeting with some fresh faces to see what unexpected news you may discover.
2. Participate in a new-to-you part of the show.
As creatures of habit, it’s easy to visit the same booths, keynotes, and media sessions from year-to-year. Challenge yourself to attend a panel, networking event, or even part of the exhibition hall that you’ve never been to before. Fortunately, the event organizer will probably make easy work of this task for you now by introducing brand new content tracks and experiences from year to year.
Pro-tip: Keep an eye out for new media-specific events, too! Many shows have now added media preview days to their lineup.
3. Attend in person if possible, but check out any virtual content.
The serendipitous, hands-on aspect of a live event cannot be duplicated and we encourage you to experience shows first-hand if you can. However, whether you’re there in person or in spirit, be sure to engage with a digital component of the show too. Knowing what’s accessible virtually and what content might be exclusive to the online component can help inform your coverage strategy for the current event and beyond.
2022 brought rapid evolution to the trade show industry, and we’re looking forward to what comes next!
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Erienne Muldoon is an operations analyst and partner success manager for Cision PR Newswire. When she's not advising clients on storytelling best practices, you can find her walking in the Cleveland metroparks, supporting a local restaurant, or playing video games.