During the past few years, an anomaly continuously vexed economists: While unemployment continued to drop, hitting record-low levels, wages failed to register any appreciable upticks. Paradoxically, despite an increasingly competitive job market, salaries weren't rising at the rate forecasters had expected. But in the past 12 months, some of that stagnation appears to have softened. As the United States approaches what economists refer to as full employment (out of every 100 people who want to work, more than 96 have jobs), compensation has finally begun creeping upward at a pace that exceeds cost-of-living increases.
For nine consecutive months, jobs reports have put current wages at roughly 3.3 percent above year-over-year comparisons. And according to a CNBC survey of global CFOs, it appears that salaries will keep on growing, at least as long as economic expansion continues unabated. Granted, there are serious threats lurking in the shadows, including fears of a trade war with China and the ongoing impact of sanctions. Still, at least for the time being, there is cause for celebration when it comes to workers' compensation, especially for trade show and event professionals.
According to the data from EXHIBITOR Magazine's 33rd Annual Salary Survey, face-to-face marketers are outpacing the average American worker, earning an average of nearly 4 percent more in 2019 than they were last year. In fact, this year's average salary of $78,164 marks an all-time record high. But it's not just salaries that have headed skyward in the past 12 months.
The average bonus and additional-compensation figure (which includes overtime pay, performance bonuses, profit sharing, stock purchase/participation, comp time, and more) has ballooned by 66 percent, from $8,921 to $14,783. All told, that means exhibit and event managers are making, on average, $8,819 more in 2019 than they were last year at this time. Read on to discover whether your annual compensation is on par with industry averages or if you're being overworked and underpaid compared to your peers. 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
Average Salary by Title
Many believe company size and annual revenue are the two factors with the most impact on salaries. However, regression analysis of the data indicates the variable with the most influence on respondents' paychecks is the size of their employers' trade show and corporate event budgets, followed closely by their years of face-to-face marketing experience.
Nine out of 10 exhibit and event professionals receive at least one form of additional compensation. This year, the value of those extras increased from $8,921 in 2018 to $14,783. The charts below indicate what percent of respondents receive each form of compensation tracked via the survey.
➤ Record-High Salaries
Average base salaries reached a record high of $78,164. This year's average represents a 3.9-percent increase over last year and is the third consecutive annual increase since salaries last dipped in 2016.
➤ Bigger Bonuses
Additional compensation is up 66 percent compared to 2018. When added to this year's average base salary, that translates to a 10-percent uptick in total take-home pay.
➤ Respondents' Raises
Sixty-seven percent of respondents received a raise in the last year, while an additional 30 percent maintained 2018 salary levels. That means only 3 percent are making less in 2019 than they were last year.
➤ Top Titles Earn More
Three of the most common job titles saw year-over-year increases ranging between roughly 1 to 3 percent. Meanwhile, event marketing managers experienced a salary surge of nearly 17 percent since last year.
➤ Many Feel Underpaid
Despite this year's record-setting average base salary, 47 percent of respondents believe their compensation is too low for their workload.
➤ Some are Making Less
Average salaries for four of the most common job titles have fallen by as much as 2 percent compared to 2018.
➤ Inequality Persists
The gender gap has held steady, as women in the exhibit and event industry continue to make roughly 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.
➤ Elusive Overtime Pay
Twenty-seven percent of exhibit and event professionals work more than 50 hours per week (with over 5 percent totaling an average of 60 hours or more). Still, just 15 percent receive any form of overtime pay.
➤ Job Satisfaction Dips
While 63 percent of respondents feel "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their careers, that represents a drop of 4 percentage points compared to 2018.
The Raise Roundup
The vast majority of exhibit and event professionals reported receiving a raise in the past year, contributing to a 3.9-percent increase in average base salaries. Meanwhile, 30 percent of respondents are making the same amount as they were in 2018, and an unfortunate 3 percent suffered salary reductions.
What's the Value of Industry Certification?
Out of Office
Respondents with at least one industry certification (such as the Certified Trade Show Marketer designation) have 20 percent higher salaries and make 34 percent more in additional compensation. That places the value of such certification at more than $20,000 worth of increased earning potential per year.
The amount of time spent traveling to trade shows and events has a direct correlation to the amount of money earned. Respondents who travel more than 20 weeks out of the year have 42 percent higher salaries than those who never leave the home office.
It's easy to compare your salary to the aggregate average of $78,164. However, our exclusive online Salary Calculator determines a customized average salary that takes into account your industry experience, level of education, and more. To calculate your personalized average salary based on 13 different factors, visit www.ExhibitorOnline.com/Salary
Sands Through the Hourglass
Dollars and Cents
The overwhelming majority of survey respondents are paid fixed annual salaries rather than by the hour. But if those salaries were translated into hourly wages, what would 60 minutes of work be worth? Based on our calculations (which factored an average 48-hour workweek and two to three weeks of vacation), exhibit and event professionals' average wage came out to roughly $32.75 per hour.
Average Hourly Wage
Base salaries have followed a relatively slow and steady march upward for the past 33 years, save for 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.
ABOUT THIS SURVEY
EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2019 Salary Survey was conducted by TriMax Direct Marketing Research. An email survey invitation generated 629 total responses. The final analyzed number of responses was 458 after screening out incompletes and responses from suppliers or those with no responsibility for their organizations' trade show or corporate event programs. The sample achieves a +/- 4-percent margin of error at a 95-percent confidence interval.