Does it seem like it’s been a while since you’ve attended a full industry trade show?
It felt like that for us this week as we returned to Houston for the 2023 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), one of the premier domestic trade shows for the Energy sector. We’ve attended OTC for many years and the attendance has ebbed and flowed with the market, as you’d expect. The pandemic put a damper on it in recent years, but as the days of mask mandates fade into the rearview mirror, attendance appears to be trending in a positive direction.
While we didn’t exhibit this year, we walked the entire show a few times. Each year we return home to Cleveland to report on the warmer Texas weather and our Three Biggest Takeaways. Can’t say this year’s are earth-shattering, but they could be helpful data points for you if you’re doing any business in the Energy sector.
Three Biggest Takeaways from OTC 2023
1. Definite Signs of Optimism in the Energy Sector
The Energy Sector is quite large and encompasses a variety of product lines from Wind Turbines to Offshore Rigs, from Downhole Monitoring to Torque Wrenches. The range of products makes generalizations about business conditions more difficult, but the overall sentiment of the vast majority of the conversations we had was optimistic about near-term and ongoing business conditions.
There were certainly challenges and issues that are being dealt with by everyone, and it was far from sunshine and roses all around, but the overwhelming sense from most of the conversations was positive in nature. Hopefully, this is the start of growing positive momentum for Energy Sector companies after several very difficult years.
2. Increased International Participation as the Pandemic Continues to Recede.
OTC was noticeably larger this year compared to 2022 and a significant portion of that growth was from the return of international companies exhibiting. A year ago, the mask mandates were on the way out, but since the planning for OTC, especially by international companies, is a months-long process, there were still many companies that couldn’t participate in 2022.
At this point, while Covid is certainly not completely gone, it’s definitely been pushed down to a manageable level so that travel, even from most international destinations, has resumed. The pent-up demand to get back into the marketplace after being absent in recent years was evident this year, as the number of exhibitors and attendees were both up. Tempering the excitement of the increase is the fact that OTC was still dramatically smaller than the years prior to the pandemic, and it remains to be seen if the market will ever return to the size it was during the bigger Energy boom years of the past.
3. Widespread Labor Challenges for Domestic Companies
A common theme in the conversations we had about the current issues in the marketplace was the ongoing challenge of finding sufficient labor to meet growing demands. Numerous companies noted that they are currently limited by the talent they can find and most reported that their inability to add staff was inhibiting opportunities for growth. Many discussed strengthening their recruiting and training programs to meet the need and most have seen their pay rates grow in the past year.
This certainly reflects the overall labor market, but the sense of Energy Sector business optimism was tempered by the difficulty of adding staff in the current environment. Time will tell if companies will be able to rebuild their Teams to meet the growing opportunities as the Energy Sector continues to strengthen.
Getting back to full in-person industry trade shows is an exciting opportunity for 2023 and beyond. We are always excited to keep up with the Energy Sector by attending OTC. It was so great to reconnect with some of our Customers, and look for new relationships, too. The overall sense of optimism was encouraging, and the staffing difficulties were not unexpected.
Hopefully, you’ll take the opportunity this year to return to some of your industry trade shows. We’d appreciate hearing about your experiences, as it’s helpful to learn what other folks are seeing across a variety of industries. Certainly, returning to face-to-face interactions with so many industry people in just a few days inspires a fresh perspective, particularly after the isolation we all experienced during the pandemic.
Here’s to continued growth in the Energy Sector for the balance of 2023 and beyond!