Trade Show and Event Industry Expectations for 2022

A recent survey by EXHIBITOR shows 56% of U.S. companies participated in a trade show in 2021, while 70% plan to participate in 2022. This is good news for event attendees, marketing professionals, and event planners who have been impacted by pandemic-related event cancellations for the past two years. According to EXHIBITOR, nine out of ten marketing professionals who have seen their budget for event planning reduce, predict a rebound once trade shows resume. In fact, 45% predict the rebound will occur in the next twelve months.

One of the reasons why in-person trade show planning continues is because of the lessons learned from a switch to virtual events over the past two years. Many large events went online to serve exhibitors and attendees safely during the pandemic. Trade show exhibitors report that in all categories except for cost, in-person events are better than online events, according to EXHIBITOR. This includes networking, community building, doing business, meeting new suppliers, and quality of educational content. Attendees and exhibitors overwhelmingly agree that in-person events are more effective.

Trade show exhibitors recognized the impact of event cancellations on their businesses, including sales, new product launches, and brand awareness. While the biggest impacts were felt in September 2020, businesses are still feeling the effects. 66% reported reduced networking opportunities, 51% had less brand exposure, and 44% received less leads generated in the current environment. Bizzabo, an open platform that helps improve the event management experience, found that 85% of senior leaders believe in-person events are essential to their company’s success.

What are the main challenges of returning to a full in-person trade show schedule?

According to the EXHIBITOR survey, the main challenges that companies face in returning to a full trade show schedule in 2022 include staffing due to company layoffs during the pandemic, corporate travel restrictions, inflation, and supply chain concerns. 24% of people surveyed thought that trade show costs would go up significantly this year due to inflation and supply chain challenges. In fact, 91% of respondents said their companies have already been impacted by the rise in manufacturers’ prices.

A recent Acker study revealed that 91% of manufacturers raised the prices of their products to their suppliers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics PPI, the price of goods has risen 19% since July 2021. A disrupted supply chain, increasing shipping costs, growing costs for raw materials, and labor shortages are all impacting this increase. A recent TIME magazine article highlighted the impact to U.S. consumers, sharing that “transporting a 40-foot steel container of cargo by sea from Shanghai to Rotterdam now costs a record $10,522, a whopping 547% higher than the seasonal average over the last five years.”

What can trade show planners expect in 2022 and beyond?

As we move into 2022, the events industry is still in flux – impacted by COVID-19 safety protocols, changing travel restrictions, and growing supply chain challenges. What hasn’t changed is the importance of live, in-person events on many industries. In 2021, many exhibitors and attendees returned to live events, with the reduction of travel restrictions around the world. Large event companies are also implementing new safety procedures. In fact, CES 2022, the largest consumer electronics show in the world, welcomed 45,000 in-person attendees at eleven venues in Las Vegas earlier this year. Almost a third of the attendees were from outside the U.S.

According to Display Wizard, 75% of businesses envision a positive outlook for trade shows this year, with most returning to full schedules by 2023. “We expect 2022 to be a very strong year for the events industry,” said Marc Herron, senior vice president of strategy at the event production company Sparks.

One future trend that EXHIBITOR is tracking is U.S. companies going global. 52% percent of the 200+ companies surveyed exhibit outside the U.S. Seven out of ten plan to do so in the next few years. 25% of these companies report that they ship their exhibit booths oversees, using a freight forwarder, shipping agent, customs broker, or clearance agent.


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