From the Editor: Through the Lens of Trade Shows

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

Cory Sekine-Pettite, editor

Cory Sekine-Pettite, editor of Masonry Desing magazine
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In the world of B2B and trade publications such as ours, editors and publishers often gauge the health of the industries they cover through the lens of trade shows. We look at the number of attendees and exhibit hall vendors, and deduce from those figures if our industry is doing well. Mind you, these aren’t scientific studies, but the determinations we make generally are accurate. Sometimes, however, our instincts can be wrong.

Case in point: Earlier this year, I attended a large, annual trade show for the construction industry. Throughout my week there, I noticed that the show seemed both smaller in scale and hosted fewer attendees than in years past. Other attendees and exhibitors confirmed my feelings. Could it be true? Could all the industry reports and forecasts be wrong? Is the construction industry really hurting? Well, no.

AIA Conference

In conversation with one vendor, he and I determined that attendance was down at this trade show—and probably others—because people are actually busy. They’re working and don’t have the time to travel. Imagine that! In fact, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, most of the leading U.S. metropolitan areas for commercial and multifamily construction starts showed substantial gains in 2016 compared to the previous year. Construction starts in these categories were valued at $186.3 billion, up 7 percent from 2015.

So while this bodes well for the industry as a whole, it may not be the best news for trade show attendance. (Not to mention the projected loss in skilled labor, but that’s a topic for another day.) Time will tell, of course. And I will be keeping my eyes and ears open in Orlando, Fla., at the AIA Conference this April. I’m looking forward to much more than the head count. This conference provides an unmatched opportunity for continuing education and the chance to chat with reps from 800 building product manufacturers and software developers.

If you’re attending the AIA Conference, what are you most looking forward to see/do? And what are your thoughts on trade shows as a thermometer for industry health? I would like to know.


Coming in May/June ‘17

  • Thin Stone/Brick
  • BIM
  • Software Roundup

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