It’s clearly not a good time for trade shows. ESC UK was disappointing, and now the big manufacturing show, productronica has announced a 30% drop in visitors compared with the last show in 2007 (28,000 vs. 40,514 in 2007). The fact that attendance fell is not a surprise, given the current economic climate, but the size of the drop is concerning.

Not surprisingly restrictions on travel had a significant effect on attendance, with around 11,700 foreign visitors, whereas 2007 saw around 18,200 non-Germans attend: a drop of 35%.

There was a little good news, with the fall in exhibitor numbers around 20% – dropping from 1,477 in 2007 to 1,150 this year. Clearly the trade show is not dead in Europe, and suppliers understand the benefit of meeting potential customers face-to-face at events. I’m sure that visitor numbers will recover in 2011, assuming that the economy is in better shape, but it will be interesting to see if visitor numbers approach the level of 2007. People, particularly in Germany, still use trade shows as part of the way that they do business, and this isn’t going to stop in the next few years. I’m confident that the show will return to its former glory, but with the number of exhibitors tied closely to the number of visitors, it is important that attendance jumps up significantly in 2011, otherwise the show could begin a period of slow decline.