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salary survey
Salaries for exhibit and event professionals have remained relatively predictable since 1987, when EXHIBITOR began tracking compensation data. Over the past 31 years, salaries annually inched up a percentage point or two, with very few exceptions. Fortunately, 2017 is one of those exceptions: Salaries are up 5.3 percent, corporate support for exhibit marketing is at a 14-year high, and job satisfaction is holding steady. By Travis Stanton
Salary Data by Title
For in-depth job descriptions, average salaries, and additional-compensation information across ten job titles, view the title-specific breakouts.

Compensation Calculation
It's easy to compare your annual salary to the aggregate average of $74,010. But unless you consider yourself average, you probably want something a bit more detailed that takes all of your unique attributes into account. So use our exclusive online Salary Calculator to determine a customized average salary more finely tuned to reflect your industry experience, level of education, and more.

Hourly Rates
Most survey respondents are paid fixed annual salaries. But if those salaries were translated into hourly wages, what would 60 minutes of work be worth? Based on our calculations (with an average 48-hour workweek and two to three weeks of vacation), exhibit and event professionals' average wage works out to roughly $31 per hour.

Dollars and Cents
Base salaries have followed a relatively slow and steady march upward for the past 31 years, save setbacks in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2011, and 2016. But the only thing predictable about bonuses and additional-compensation averages is their unpredictability, ranging from a low of $2,981 in 1991 to highs of more than $16,000 in 2000, 2006, and 2011.

Good News
➤ Average base salaries reached a record high of $74,010, following a 1.2-percent decrease in 2016. This year's average represents a 5.3-percent increase over last year and is more than 4 percent higher than the previous high of $71,092 that was established in 2015.
➤ Job satisfaction has held steady in recent years, with 67 percent of respondents feeling "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their careers.
➤ More than 88 percent of respondents indicated the size of their exhibit marketing teams has increased or remained the same in the past 12 months, signaling a strong level of job security.
➤ Seventy-three percent of respondents received a raise in the last year, while an additional 26 percent maintained 2016 salary levels. That means only 1 percent of respondents are making less in 2017 than they were last year.
➤ Corporate support for exhibit marketing reached a 14-year high, with 86 percent of respondents reporting "average" or "strong" support.

Bad News
➤ While salaries are up 5.3 percent, additional compensation is down 23 percent compared to last year, meaning the average increase in take-home pay amounts to just $1,414.
➤ Even though average trade show budgets are up compared to last year ($912,558 versus $800,182), they are still far below the peak of $1.5 million established in 2015.
➤ The gender gap has narrowed by 3 percentage points since last year, but it is still evident when it comes to exhibit and event professionals' compensation. On average, women make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.
➤ Thirty percent of respondents work 50 hours or more per week, with 7 percent reporting they put in 60-hour workweeks.
➤ Despite this year's record-setting average base salary, nearly half of respondents believe their compensation is low, considering their workload.
➤ The average base salary for respondents who hold the title of marketing communications specialist is 1.3 percent less than in 2016.

Factor Fiction
While many believe company size and annual revenue are the two factors with the most impact on employees' salaries, they're not among the top five. In fact, regression analysis of the data provided indicates the variable with the most influence on exhibit and event professionals' paychecks is the number of years they've spent in the industry, followed by the number of employees supervised, the number of hours worked per week, the size of their organizations' trade show budgets, and how many weeks per year they spend on business trips, respectively.

Extra! Extra!
Nine out of 10 exhibit and event professionals receive at least one form of additional compensation (which includes travel per diems, overtime pay, profit sharing, stock purchase/participation, performance bonuses, compensatory time, etc.). Unfortunately, the value of those extras dropped significantly from $10,301 in 2016 to $7,963 in 2017. The charts below indicate what percent of respondents receive each form of additional compensation tracked via the survey.

What's the true value of industry certification?
Respondents with at least one industry certification (such as the Certified Trade Show Marketer designation) have higher salaries and make more in additional compensation. That places the value of such certification at approximately $5,000 per year.

Deconstruction by Decade
Things have certainly changed since EXHIBITOR conducted its first salary survey in 1987. Here's a decade-by-decade overview of how corporate exhibit and event managers' salaries have fluctuated, along with other key compensation indicators. While salaries have risen, overtime pay has become increasingly elusive, replaced by other forms of additional compensation. If current trends continue, the average reported salary for trade show and event professionals in 2027 will be approximately $94,733 (although we were admittedly off by 16 percent with our predictions in 2007).

Support System
Corporate support for exhibit marketing has averaged roughly 82 percent for the past 15 years, bottoming out at 78 percent in 2005. This year, backing from upper management reached its highest level since 2003, as 86 percent of respondents report they receive "average" or "strong" support.

On the Road
Respondents reported being on the road an average of more than seven weeks per year, but frequent-flier miles aren't the only related benefit. According to the data, the amount of time you spend traveling to trade shows and events has a direct correlation to the amount of money you make. In fact, respondents who travel more than 20 weeks out of the year have 52 percent higher salaries than those who never leave the home office.

Raise the Bar
The vast majority of exhibit and event professionals reported receiving a raise in the past year, contributing to a 5.3-percent increase in average base salaries. Meanwhile, 26 percent of respondents are making the same amount as they were in 2016, and an unfortunate 1 percent suffered salary cuts.

Are You Happy?
Not surprisingly, job satisfaction, which held steady at 67 percent, is tied to income. Respondents who are "very satisfied" make an average of 33 percent more than those who are "very dissatisfied."

Survey Methodology
EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2017 Salary Survey was conducted by TriMax Direct Marketing Research via an email survey invitation, which generated 795 total responses. The final analyzed number of responses was 596, screening out incompletes and responses from suppliers or those with no responsibility for their organizations' trade shows or corporate events. The sample achieves a +/- 3.5-percent margin of error at a 95-percent confidence interval.


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