Now it's official: We can add attendance to the list of superlatives for NPE2018 — even though the total did not meet preshow expectations.
A total of 56,034 people registered to attend NPE2018, which was held May 7-11, according to the Plastics Industry Association, the show organizer. That's up 1.7 percent from the last show in 2015, and it is the largest number since the show moved to Orlando, Fla., in 2012.
With more exhibitors and exhibit space than ever — and the United States enjoying a strong economy and a resurgent manufacturing sector — the association confidently predicted this would be a record-breaking show. Leading up to NPE2018, the show organizer predicted that 65,000-plus people would attend.
The actual attendance number falls well short of that prediction. But trade show officials highlighted that exhibitors left the show happy.
"It's hard to describe the elation on the trade show floor," said NPE2018 Chairman Glenn Anderson, senior vice president at plastics machinery manufacturer Milacron LLC. "We've heard plenty of testimonials from our exhibitors about how productive this year's show was, with many outpacing their lead acquisition estimates by the first day," he said in a news release.
Association spokeswoman Ashley Stoney added that exhibitors have been reporting positive reviews, based on deals made at the show and leads generated.
For example, Paul Caprio, president of machinery supplier KraussMaffei Corp., reported that his company had more than 1,200 leads this year, up from about 900 in 2015.
Measuring and comparing trade show attendance can be an inexact science, with few shows reporting an actual number of individuals who go through a turnstile, like at a sporting event or concert. On top of that, the Plastics Industry Association is now reporting a significant adjustment for its attendance estimate for the 2015 show.
Back in 2015, the association reported registered attendance for NPE2015 was 65,810, which was up a whopping 19 percent from the 2012 show. That was the first NPE in Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.
Now the association says the actual registered attendance for 2015 was 55,110, which would have been basically flat from the 2012 show, which reported attendance of 55,359.
Stoney said association officials decided just prior to the start of NPE2018 to hire a data analytics company specializing in trade show spaces to do a thorough review of the data collected from NPE2015 for comparison to NPE2018.
Prior to 2018, the show organizer reported attendance figures at the end of each day, adding the number of people who registered on-site to the number who had preregistered for the show. This year, the Plastics Industry Association did not report daily totals, but instead it decided to wait until several weeks after the show so it could report an accurate number, she said.
Stoney added that the official attendance figures still include people who register for the show in advance, in addition to those who register on-site.
The new figures mean that the 2000 NPE in Chicago still holds the record — about 90,000 registered attendees— although observers don't believe that was an accurate measure of actual attendance.
NPE2018 did set other records, though: 2,174 exhibiting companies in more than 1.2 million net square feet of sold-out exhibit floor space.
The 2018 attendees represented almost 19,000 companies, and they spent a combined 65,632 nights in local hotels, up 3.2 percent from 2015.
Some 49 percent of exhibiting companies and 27 percent of registrants came from outside the United States, representing 121 countries. Some 3,351 registrants came from China and 3,965 from Latin America.
The next NPE is scheduled for May 17-21, 2021, at the OCCC in Orlando.