Lessons Learned After FMI Connect Cancels 2017 Show in Chicago

Photo: © Depositphotos.com/zager

Photo: © Depositphotos.com/zager

Recently, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced they were canceling their 2017 show, known as FMI Connect. The reason? A dramatic drop-off in attendance.

Of course this came as a shock to many, including those in the Chicago travel industry. FMI Connect has been a reliable citywide convention for years, generating about 20,000 room nights. That’s definitely not chump change for the city!

But FMI is now in discussions with McCormick Place regarding the option of holding smaller events. In a statement from FMI:

“At FMI we continue to believe that events designed to bring together the entire food retail industry and their partners for meaningful conversation, education, exploration and networking are desired and needed, but we have concluded these gatherings should occur in a framework that differs from the current FMI Connect design.”

The statement goes on to say that the new events will be designed to fit the “faster paced rhythms of food retail, and in unique formats more attuned to the specific needs of our industry.” (Click here to read the complete statement.)

What exactly will that look like? It’s too soon to tell, but it could perhaps be gatherings of specific segments of the food industry. Maybe there will be topic-specific events geared to various aspects of the business of retail. But no one is sure yet whether the new model will include a trade show component.

So is this a trend that other shows may follow? It’s too soon to know for sure, but it’s not likely in many industries where shows are growing in attendance and square footage. But for shows struggling because they grew too big at one point then began to decline, maybe there needs to be a good long self-examination. Are they still meeting their audience’s needs? Is there perhaps a better way to connect buyers and sellers in a more intimate or frequent format?

The business world certainly isn’t like it what it was in our parents’ day, so perhaps it’s time that trade shows evolved to follow suit.

What do you think? How could trade shows which are struggling – yet still relevant – be reinvented for the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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