After a disastrous 4-quarter period starting in Q2 2020 when almost all in-person B2B exhibitions were canceled, the industry continues to improve, according to the latest data from the Center of Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).
The figures show a marked improvement over the course of 2021 in terms of exhibitions going forward as planned. In fact, just 12.5% of events – or 1 in 8 – were canceled in Q4, down from 1 in 5 in Q3 (20.6%), 2 in 3 in Q2 (66.2%), and 9 in 10 in Q1 (91.3%).
This is good news for B2B marketers considering they feel much more confident executing in-person than virtual events, and that prior to the pandemic, in-person events were a top-ranked demand generation tactic.
Total Exhibition Industry Index Still Has Room to Improve
Despite the drop in cancelled physical in-person events, the CEIR Total Index continues to trail pre-pandemic levels by a significant margin: in Q4 2021, the CEIR Total Index was 45.3% lower than in 2019.
The CEIR Total Index is a measure of exhibition industry performance that takes into account the net square feet of exhibit space sold, professional attendance, number of exhibiting companies, and total event gross revenue. Per the report, given that almost 98% of trade shows scheduled to be held in the fourth quarter of 2020 were canceled, comparison of Q4 2021 performance results to Q4 2020 results are not useful, as any positive change would be very large and misleading. The more useful comparison is to 2019, the industry benchmarks before COVID-19 caused the industry’s shutdown. Thus, completed events in the fourth quarter of 2021 are compared with those in the fourth quarter of 2019.
This 45.3% drop in the CEIR Total Index, while substantial, is still better than it was in earlier quarters: the Index was down from comparable quarters in 2019 by 50.6% in Q3, by 75.6% in Q2, and by 94% in Q1 2021.
When excluding canceled events, the Total Index for completed events in Q4 was down by 40.5% compared to Q4 2019. This is an improvement from a 45.8% drop in Q3, while being on par with the 39.8% drop in Q2. The index figure for Q4 was affected by a 43.2% drop in Attendees, while the Exhibitor metric (number of exhibitors) fared better, with a 36.2% drop.
Overall, roughly 3 in 4 cancelled events (75.8%) instead offered digital events, in the middle of the range set in previous quarters of 2021.