The exhibition industry continues to show strong growth in attendance, exhibit space sold, and sponsorships, according to the 2012 Pulse Survey, conducted for the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum by Baltimore-based research consultant Jacobs, Jenner & Kent. The survey also identified key trends and what exhibition organizers see as the biggest threats to the industry.

Attendance rates are particularly strong, with 64 percent of association and independent show organizers reporting attendance growth in 2012, while just 8 percent reported a decline, according to the survey, which was released at ECEF May 30 in Washington, D.C. Last year, just 39 percent saw attendance growth while 29 percent experienced a decline. Here is a look at the other metrics:

  • In 2012, 60 percent reported growth in exhibit space sold, while 14 percent saw a decline. Last year, 48 percent had growth while 21 percent reported a decline.
  • Also, 58 percent had an increase in sponsorship sales while 16 percent had a decrease. In 2011, 54 percent saw sponsorships increase while 18 percent saw them decline.
  • As to the number of exhibiting companies, 58 percent reported growth in this year’s survey, with 12 percent reporting a decline. In 2011 the same percentage reported growth while 14 percent saw a drop.
Marketing budgets are also going up. Roughly 51 percent of respondents say they are increasing marketing for their events while 7 percent are reducing them. Last year the survey found that just 36 percent were increasing marketing budgets while 21 percent were reducing them.

Not surprisingly, profits are also up. Two-thirds of respondents said profits have increased for their largest show this year compared to 54 percent last year.

The Pulse Survey also reveals how attitudes toward social media have dramatically changed in just one year. In last year’s survey, participants said the single biggest threat to their events was marketing budgets being diverted to social media. This year it is the lowest perceived threat. The three biggest threats in 2012 are the global economic recession, mergers and acquisitions that have an impact on the attendee and exhibitor base, and exhibitors downsizing.

Other findings show that

  • 41 percent now are, or are in the process of, holding international events. China (23 percent) and South America (14 percent) are the most popular locales;
  • 56 percent are open to new pricing models for exhibitors;
  • 51 percent are likely to either continue co-locating or explore the idea, up from 26 percent in 2011;
  • 47 percent are using matchmaking/appointment scheduling programs at their events, up from 36 percent last year. About 51 percent find them effective for exhibitors and 54 percent find them effective for attendees; and
  • About 27 percent offer virtual extensions of live events, up from 21 percent last year.
For more on the survey, go to