Analyzing Economic Impact of Exhibitions Reply

By Doug Ducate 

For the last 15 years the exhibition industry has pursued the goal of identifying economic impact of our events with the same fervor that Percival exhibited in his quest for the Holy Grail … and unfortunately with the same frustrating ending. But it hasn’t always been that way.

From the early 1970s to the end of the 1990s, economic impact was the product of IACVB (now DMAI). The process was simple. Organizers would provide the local CVB with a list of attendees. The CVB would mail them a survey form that identified the amount they spent while at the event. Good sampling and follow-up with non-respondent techniques were followed to insure a reliable outcome within a reasonable standard deviation. Local economists would then apply acceptable multipliers for the destination and multiply that times the total number of visitors and the result was economic impact of that event.

The advent of the Internet in 1994 made the process easier and less expensive but also doomed it.  Instead of street addresses, organizers provided email addresses and the resulting wave of emails that inundated everyone led to filters and other techniques to stop unwanted email. Security concerns along with the volume issue resulted in organizers no longer giving out email or street addresses. With no way to collect direct spend data, there is no scientific way to calculate economic impact.

The convention industry problem was further exacerbated by the rise of special events such as the Super Bowl, the NBA All Star game and the Final Four. A recently completed study reported in The Dallas Morning News (29 October  2013) stated that “fans and workers are expected to spend $276 million at the 2014 Final Four” that is being played in the Dallas area. It goes on to say “that is slightly more than the record setting NBA All-Star game hosted in Dallas in 2010, but less than half the estimated spending for Super Bowl XLV hosted in 2011.” A typical economic multiplier to calculate economic impact is around six or seven times the direct spend so you can do the arithmetic.

Dallas was never able to verify direct spend numbers for the Super Bowl or NBA All-Star game that came anywhere near these estimates, and it is unlikely any other destination has either. The reality is these events brought visitors to the area that spent money then left. They have a significant economic impact on each destination that hosts them even if it cannot be quantified.

This is true for meetings and exhibitions too. IACVB got so good at these calculations when they had the direct spend numbers that they could distinguish a difference in the impact of a meeting with an exhibition versus one without an exhibition, and it was confirmed those events with exhibitions had a greater impact than those without. If a destination doesn’t have a facility and infrastructure needed to meet the needs of these events, they don’t come, and that economic impact can be calculated with certainty as it is zero.

Since the direct spend data flow ended about the time the dot com bubble burst, various industry groups have spent more than a million dollars with well known brands trying to identify the economic impact of our events. One of the latest done by CIC soon to be updated by them pegged the industry at $120 billion. Models attempting to bring that down to individual events have been labeled as “flawed” and of “marginal value.”  But even if some day we have precision, we can’t compete with “estimates” for major events like the Super Bowl.

All this doesn’t mean the industry should stop trying. To the contrary each organizer should be able to make a case with a destination on the benefit their event will bring to the destination. Some of that to be sure is economic impact, but there are other benefits as well including bragging rights. Why else would a destination pursue such expensive ventures as the Super Bowl and the national political conventions?

Maybe someday we will find a way to gather direct spend information to provide a reliable direct spend total number that can be translated into an economic impact number for any destination. If we do, hopefully there will be enough money available to then build an economic model that economists and statisticians can accept as a reliable methodology for the next 10 or 15 years until the next direct spend  data is needed.

DC Exhibition Organizers – Join Me on 23 January for a Thinking Thursday Session on Engaging Young Professionals in Alexandria, VA Reply

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director

This is an invitation to exhibition industry professionals in the Greater DC Area to come and join what promises to be an informative, interactive and, yes, fun session on the hot topic of making sure exhibitions are delivering the content and using the marketing approaches that are most likely to attract young professionals and convince them to come back again and again.

This panel discussion is fun because not only will you hear from industry leaders and experts, but also it offers an invaluable opportunity to share your own thoughts and ideas. It will be held in a casual business setting aimed at encouraging attendees to relax, think and share! Peer-to-peer interactions are an important way to brainstorm ideas that you can take back to your office for further consideration and action.

For more information and to register, go to:

BACKGROUND ON WHAT I WILL COVER: Late last year, CEIR completed fielding a study on what organizers are doing to adjust their event content and marketing approaches to align with young professional preferences. We are still working on the analyses for this study and reports will be released in the first quarter of this year. By coming to this particular session, you will have a ‘sneak peak’ of overall trends uncovered in the study. Don’t miss the opportunity!

Going the Extra Mile to Deliver Reply

By Doug Ducate 

Those of us that organize exhibitions or are responsible for planning meetings and events can relate and sympathize with the workers at USPS, Federal Express and UPS. Most of us realize the difference between a successful event and a disaster is a very thin line. Hopefully our attendees and exhibitors are unaware of all the potential for problems, and when things go wrong and unforeseen delays are encountered, it is usually the heroic efforts of the show contractors that save the day.

We have seen carpenters, electricians, riggers and teamsters and dozens of other crafts work around the clock to have an event ready to open on time. When disaster hits, general service contractors help one another to make sure the show goes on as planned, and I have witnessed custom brokers do the impossible by getting officials to move containers from overseas with exhibit materials to the front of the line so exhibitors will be ready when the show opens.

My message is to suggest this season bracketed by Thanksgiving and the New Year’s holidays is indeed the time to remember, give thanks and in the spirit of “Goodwill to all Men” take time to thank your general service contractor, registration company, AV firm, transportation provider and all the show contractors that work so hard and for which we as organizers get most of the credit.

Like our own shows, thousands of men and women have worked tirelessly for the last few weeks for the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Express and UPS and other firms trying to deliver mountains of mail and packages generated by us. While they may not have delivered 100 percent on time, only a small percentage was delayed. More importantly, when faced with an insurmountable task, they didn’t quit. They spent their holiday time getting as many delivered as they could. Those are the kind of people I hope you have working on your next show!

Why I am looking forward to going to Expo! Expo! Reply

by Warwick H. Davies, Principal, The Event Mechanic!

This Expo! Expo! will be my fifth time going(which is odd considering I feel like I have been going since I started in the business), and I am looking forward to Houston not only for the warmer weather.

One thing I can always count on is experiencing something new in addition to making new connections. I hear from CEIR staff that registrations will be north of the 2000 attendees, so it’s a big opportunity see old friends and build new business relationships. I understand that 250+ exhibitors will participate in an Expo which is now multiple days to allow attendees to better plan their visit to Houston.

Here are some of this year’s features:

  • The Activation Lab, which offers participants the chance to collaborate on event design using creative, funky ideas that can potentially add excitement to the events. Along the same line, the Education Jumpstart Session with Biz Bash President Richard Aaron will offer breakthrough ideas and trends for event design that attendees can put to use immediately in 2014.
  •  This year’s On the Floor FlyBy Sessions will address immediate ways of improving your events with five-minute, infomercial-style quick encounters covering a wide variety of industry topics. Designed for small, on-the-go groups, these sessions will allow attendees to get answers to their pressing questions quickly. Topics will range from advice about professional training programs to a Town Hall with the CEO featuring IAEE president and CEO David DuBois.
  • The Executive Encounter will help executives explore how to prepare for what’s new, how to recruit and retain employees, and how to deal with an ever-changing economic environment.
  • The VUCA Leadership Lounge will provide a forum for industry leaders of all levels to discuss emerging ideas in strategic leadership and help those in leadership positions grow as professionals. VUCA is a military acronym to describe volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in a variety of situations.
  • There will be a number of IAEE Chapter Receptions on Tuesday evening (December 9) at the Convention Center on Level 3 Rooms 325-340. Don’t pass up the chance to meet colleagues from your and other parts of the country!
  • This year’s Expo! Expo! Mobile App, powered by FollowMe and created by Core-Apps LLC, is now available to download at the App Store or Android Market on your phone (search for IAEE Expo! Expo!).
  • Key attributes include:
    • The Dashboard keeps you organized with up-to-the-minute info
    • About This Show keeps all show information in one place
    • The Program of Events and Educational Sessions Tab allows the easy additions of events to your app schedule
    • Alerts allow you to receive important real-time communications
    • The Built-in Twitter feed to follow and join in on the show chatter
    • Rate the Sessions Tab allows rating the speakers
    • The Quick List allows the selecting of  favorite exhibitors and the plotting route from booth to booth

For details on the above please visit:

Of course, this note wouldn’t be complete without recommending you to attend my session:

Having Problems Attracting Power Buyers to Your Event? -Building Marketing Performance Programs with Target Personas – which I will present on Tuesday December 11th at 8.00AM at the Convention Center.

I’ll be going into the core reasons why events lose key buyers and how to reverse the trend.

More information is here:

With so much to do, you won’t be bored, so hat’s off to IAEE and CEIR for creating another compelling event.  Look forward to seeing you there!


Does Your Exhibit Have the Correct Sales Floor Plan? Reply

by Justin Hersh, Chief Executive Officer, Group Delphi

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

This famous quote paraphrased from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is at the heart of knowing what you want out of your trade exhibition experience and ensuring that your exhibit has the correct floor plan.  Too often we find exhibiting clients start with what they want in the exhibit before they know what they want to accomplish.

Before creating your sales floor plan, ask yourself some key questions. Are you reaching out to 2,000 potential influencers of your brand, or are there 25 key customers that you want to spend 90 high quality minutes with?  Both are critical audiences that deserve an effective and authentic experience, but need two entirely different experiences to be reached.

For example, the goal of a transactional exhibit is to sell products on-site and introduce new products. Consider designing the space to be inviting with easy access to the products, and allow room for the sales staff to casually approach the customer and close the sale. Think of Apple retail, where they have eliminated the cash register by completing the transaction on mobile devices. This allows the sales staff to engage the customer and close the sale in a seamless conversation as well as showcase their own products.

If you’re narrowing your focus for high-level conversations with key accounts, you may want to provide the hospitality experience. In-booth cafes, lounging areas and conference rooms create a sense of stepping off the exhibition floor and creating personal connections.  This is perfect for targeting those 25 key customers, but would alienate 2,000 potential influencers.

There are many paths to successful exhibition sales, but first you need to know to whom and how you want to sell. Know where you are going, and otherwise you might just end up somewhere.

For more information on creating a game plan for exhibiting, check out the following Guru article: Beyond ROI and ROO Using Measurement to Enhance Decisions & Improve Exhibit Results

Approaching Visitors 1

by Barry Siskind, President, International Training & Management Company

When I walk a trade show floor, I am surprised by booth staff that makes eye contact and then ask, “How are you doing?” My answer is inevitably, “Fine,” and I continue to walk.

Some exhibitors will justify this behavior by saying, “I’m just trying to be friendly,” or, “I don’t want to seem pushy.”

It is important to understand why engaging a visitor in a meaningful conversation continues to be a stumbling block for many exhibitors. For booth staff, more accustomed to dealing with people one-on-one, the sheer volume of visitors at a trade show can be overwhelming.

Recent research by CEIR uncovered visitors’ “Most Popular Exhibit Floor Interactions.” The most popular, in descending order of importance were:

  • product demonstrations
  • hands-on interaction
  • literature
  • the ability to shop without pressure from vendors

I believe these findings reveal that visitors have to be able to engage with products and vendors on their own terms.

There are two reasons that a trade show is not like shopping in a mall where one can walk into one shop, browse and then walk into another: time and space.

At a busy show, time is at a premium and it is often difficult to tell the booth staff apart from other visitors. Space becomes an issue because there are simply too many people in a space that is measured, in 10 feet by 10 feet cubicles.

So there is a need to ensure that booth staff understand that visitors want to engage in a meaningful way. Being reactive and waiting until they approach is a recipe for disaster. A proactive approach that engages the visitor in a friendly and professional manner is what is needed.

Yet the rate at which companies seek out expert help training their staff on basic skills remains frightening small.


To view the CEIR report Approaching Prospects on the Show Floor please click here. Feel free to follow CEIR on tweeter for all updates by clicking here.

All Exhibitor Onsite Marketing Practices Are Not Created Equal Reply

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Research Director, CEIR

In a report released recently by CEIR, Exhibitor Ancillary On-site Marketing Practices, marketing activities exhibitors engage while on-premise at an exhibition are evaluated. It identifies the most popular activities and takes another important step, asking exhibitors to identify how effective each activity is in helping them achieve their overall goals for exhibiting.

Bottom-line assessment is that a popular marketing activity is not necessarily the most effective. Exhibitors and organizers alike should read this report and think about what implications it has for their programs.

  • Exhibitors, spend your marketing dollars wisely relative to your objectives for exhibiting.
  • Organizers, reflect on the onsite marketing program offerings you make available to your exhibitors. How can you help exhibitors achieve their goals and maximize your ancillary revenues?

Activities evaluated in this study include:

  • Exhibition program advertising
  • Speak at educational seminar/workshop
  • Sponsor exhibition giveaways
  • Sponsorship of exhibition special event/session
  • On-premise advertising outside of booth
  • Private event, outside exhibition hours

Engaging in pre-exhibition marketing is very important to generating traffic to an exhibitor’s booth. Once an exhibition is open for business, activities at the exhibition are key to maximizing awareness of an exhibitor’s participation at the event and drawing target attendees to the booth.

Most exhibitors understand the importance of this activity to maximize the impact of exhibiting, with the most popular activity being advertising in the exhibition program (82 percent).

In terms of the effectiveness of each onsite marketing activity in helping an organization meet its important objectives for exhibiting; those activities which give an organization singular attention achieve higher effectiveness scores, with speaking at educational seminars/workshops (86 percent) top ranked for effectiveness.

Use of different marketing activities and level of effectiveness vary by industry sector.  Differences are also evidenced by the frequency of using exhibitions and size of an organization. To obtain the full report, go to:

Don’t Skip the Rehearsal! Reply

by Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM  The Booth Mom®

I’ve seen it happen time and again on the show floor: exhibit staff avoiding interaction with attendees.  They do just about anything they can to keep from making eye contact with attendees passing by – by checking their phone, talking with co-workers or even reading the newspaper dropped off at their hotel room.

I don’t think these people purposefully planned to come to their company’s trade show exhibit to make their company look bad by ignoring the visitors who come by their booth. But I do believe that they probably weren’t trained properly to be comfortable acting in an environment foreign to them in a capacity ‒ as their company’s face-to-face ambassador ‒ that’s often far different than their typical daily job responsibilities.

According to a 2012 report by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction, only 26 percent of exhibitors conduct training for all or most events, and over one-half rarely or never hold exhibit staff training sessions. This lack of training can severely impact an exhibit staff’s effectiveness and visitors’ perception of their professionalism.

Using the analogy of trade show exhibiting being like show business, we construct a stage (our exhibit) to act as a backdrop and grab our prospects’ attention.  We write scripts of key messages that include product information, elevator answers and qualifying questions.  We add props like informational graphics, product samples, collateral literature, lead forms and giveaways. But the most critical element to the exhibit’s success and audience memorability – the actors (a.k.a. the exhibit staff) are somehow expected to engage with the audience without any rehearsal.  Exhibit managers (a.k.a. producer/director of our corporate theater) need to make sure that the actors are not only knowledgeable about their role in the exhibit, but unequivocally comfortable with it.

But what does it take to prepare your staff?  Effective pre-show training sessions for your booth staff can include a review of their company’s exhibiting goals and objectives, key messages, product reviews, competitive analysis, the visitor interaction process and booth etiquette. Role playing exercises hone one-on-one engagement skills between exhibit staff and booth visitors in various realistic scenarios.  And don’t forget to provide an in-booth orientation to the exhibit and the props and tools there to enhance visitors’ in-booth experience. (For a detailed list of topics to cover in pre-show meetings, check out the CEIR Guru Report,“An Exhibit Manager’s Guide to Exhibit Staff Orientation”). Providing this review can increase an exhibit staff’s comfort level through improved competency with visitor interactions and better in-booth skills and behavior.  It can also help to motivate staff members to work toward specific corporate exhibiting goals and maximize the limited time available for each visitor interaction.

In a nutshell, don’t skip preparing your exhibit staff with a “boothmanship refresher course” for their new role. Without this rehearsal, your actors’ performance may just be improv without the laughs!


Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM, a.k.a. “The Booth Mom®”, is an independent exhibit and event project manager, 1-on-1 rookie exhibit manager trainer/mentor, humorous exhibit staff trainer, industry speaker, award-winning monthly columnist for Exhibitor magazine’s “Exhibiting 101” and Exhibitor Show/FastTrak faculty member.

Tap Your Venues for Local Reach Reply

By Siroun Majarian
Market Research Analyst, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority

A recent CEIR report (MC41 – Effective Methods for Visitor Promotion, Part 1: Exhibition Organizers) makes an excellent case for channel organizers to maximize their reach. One channel few organizers use is to work within their venue or convention center to find and market to attendees.

Venues are unique in the face-to-face business. A venue has two sets of clients – the organizers who rent the building, and the attendees and exhibitors who take part in the event. But venues also have their own direct relationships with local media and local audience pools via a venue’s head of marketing and public relations, both of which are excellent resources.

Venues develop their own sales program to help fill in their dark (or available) dates, and these sales departments also often have direct relationships with major corporations, universities and other institutions nearby. Need access to someone in a state or local government agency to invite to your conference? There’s a pretty good chance that someone in the venue’s management organization will know someone and be able to make the connection for you. Venue public relations departments today also manage their own Twitter feeds. Asking for re-tweets on your campaigns and event information is a quick way to extend your reach.

Try a brainstorming session by telephone with the head of PR to learn about whom to talk to at local media outlets – television, regional cable news channels, daily and weekly newspapers. And in today’s social media environments, do not forget the many online sites that are rapidly becoming the news sources that Gen Y’s turn to. Here in Boston, Twitter-based news feeds and these followers will re-tweet event content, announce speakers and keynotes and highlight exhibitors, especially local companies – all for free.

Show organizers must continue to rethink how they market to attract audiences. Years ago it was direct mail brochures, catalogues and guest tickets mailed to prospects and through exhibitors. More recently it has included digital marketing programs including email, PDFs of brochures, and in-bound marketing to an event’s website. It is time to expand your thinking to include your convention centers, CVBs and even Chambers of Commerce to help find B2B and B2C attendee prospects.

When in doubt – make the phone call and just ask!

Exhibitor Product Information Sharing Practices: Feature your brochures, deliver with digital 1

by  Reagan Cook, Sr. Marketing Analyst, Global Experience Specialist (GES)
David Saef, Executive Vice President of Strategy & Marketing, Global Experience Specialist (GES)

Ever since the dawn of the digital age, the exhibition world has been abuzz about eliminating printed materials. A recent study by CEIR shows a paradox of printed versus digital – and while industry practice will vary, the simple solution is to provide access and exposure to print, and deliver with digital.

CEIR’s report, Exhibitor Product Information Sharing Practices, points out that the top method attendees prefer to access exhibitor information is via printed materials distributed at the exhibition (58 percent) followed by information sent via email after the exhibition (70 percent). A third alternative, exhibitors sending printed information after the exhibition, was ranked third by 34 percent of the respondents. Exhibitors expressed interest in the same rank order, albeit at higher percentage levels (85 percent, 70 percent and 52 percent, respectively).

Note that some of the differences in preference can be seen between industries; for example, Medical and Healthcare attendees prefer printed materials versus IT & Communications attendees who prefer digital delivery.

However, attendee respondents indicated that digital delivery (in this case information downloadable to a USB, post-exhibition email and a USB) rated higher in effectiveness. A partial explanation can be seen in generational attitudes. In this study, all attendees preferred a USB drive – or for older attendees, CD-ROM or disk for receiving information. In another CEIR report, Attracting Attendees, Gen X-ers are more likely to use smart phones to access exhibition programs, and Millennials prefer social media. Hence a generational focus on digital information.

At a time when exhibitors are pursuing more effective and relevant engagement, the shift towards more engaging digital content represents the new marketplace. As Gen X and Millennial generations move into decision-maker roles, more digital content will be expected along with some entertainment value.

We see more exhibition organizers and more exhibitors offering real-time electronic distribution through tools like mobile apps, digital way finding, and e-literature on tablets or at stations within booths. Sometimes these tools involve gamification to increase interactive engagement and to collect critical information on prospect interests. Trends like “bring your own device” (content sent to attendee Smartphones or tablets) and “anywhere transactions” driven by digital communications, peer input, and mobile purchases also accelerate the change. (Read GES’s TrendTracker report) Moving towards digital information (not abandoning print media) increases effectiveness and relevance, increases sustainability, and reduces costs for printings, shipment, and waste.

As more exhibition organizers provide these essential capabilities to exhibitors, satisfaction among exhibitors will increase for their exhibitions. As more attendees tap into the information they need easily with the technology they have available, their satisfaction will also increase. Both attendance and booth sales can increase.

So when devising your product delivery consider the following:

-          Do my attendees / does my target audience prefer printed or digital solutions?

-          Do I need to provide a printed piece for all attendees or can I feature certain pieces and deliver personally through a digital solution?

-          Is my organization/company seeking to collect information/feedback on my product? If so, the digital solutions or requiring a card swipe will allow you to collect relevant feedback on your audience.

Click Exhibitor Product Information Sharing Practices for more information on the CEIR study.