Future-Proofing Events and Exhibitions

A 5 Step Approach

Evaluating and assessing the relevancy and long-term viability for events and exhibitions is a critical exercise for organizers in today’s ever-evolving industry landscape. An exceptionally well-planned and executed event no longer ensures long-term sustainability. Factors such as seismic shifts in demographics and the impacts of technology are forever changing the face-to-face experience, and the real danger lies when events and exhibitions continue without a clear long-term strategy and lack of engagement value.

Here is a five- step approach to future-proofing events and exhibitions:

  1. Conduct a STEEP Analysis – a STEEP analysis is a framework to evaluate how the external environment will impact an event’s strategy to remain competitive and also to determine trends. STEEP is an acronym which stands for Social, Technological, Economical, Environmental and Political. Conclusions from this exercise will leave organizers with information and implications to be incorporated into a long-range strategy.


  1. Examine KPIs and Cross-Reference with Industry Benchmarks – Suggested event KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to track and analyze over time to determine trends and evaluate event/exhibition performance include:
  • Net Square Footage (NSF) Exhibit Space Sold
  • Professional Attendance
  • Number of Exhibiting Companies
  • Total Event Gross Revenue

These are also the primary metrics measured by the CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) Index Report to determine year-over-year performance of the event/exhibition industry overall. By tracking and analyzing this information, organizers can determine if events are on a growth trajectory, stagnant or in decline. Benchmarking against the CEIR Index sheds light on event performance compared to the overall exhibition industry and in key sectors.


  1. Research the Competitive Landscape – It’s increasingly important for organizers to know more about their competition than ever before. To accomplish this, identify top three – five competitors, analyze and compare their content, evaluate strengths and weakness and the strategies used to achieve their objectives. In the event/exhibition space it’s also important to scan the periphery for potential disruptors as well as other platforms that could erode attendance such as online learning, start-up and/or corporate events.


  1. Organize a Strategic Planning Session with Key Stakeholders – Gathering a group of key stakeholders to discuss the long-term strategy for an event/exhibition is a critical step. Key conversations to facilitate in this meeting include vision (where is the event going?), purpose (why does the event exist and who does the event serve?), strategic priorities (what needs to be focused on to achieve the vision?) and action planning.


  1. Develop and Implement a Strategic Action Plan – the last and arguably most important step is to synthesize all of the data, information and ideas gathered, analyzed and discussed into an action plan and roadmap. The format should include goals, strategic objectives and specific tactics to achieve them. Additionally, performance measures, required resources and owners should be assigned to specific tactics.