by Jessica Finnerty

Data. It feels like the word is everywhere. In the digital age, data is created around everything we do. In the exhibitions and events industry, it is becoming more ingrained in our show planning, execution and follow-up with each passing year. And as we become an increasingly more data-driven society, both attendees and exhibitors alike are relying more on hard numbers to help them determine ROI and plan for their show. So how can we help provide them with the information that they need?

Luckily, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has done a lot of the legwork for us. For many years, I have been using CEIR research as a resource for myself–most everyone knows that it’s a great way to keep tabs on the industry at large. But a few years ago I realized that there was much more value there than simply keeping tabs on trends.

Like many planners, I am always looking for ways to try and educate our attendees and exhibitors, so as to ensure that everyone leaves feeling like they had a successful show. The exhibitor side is always a particular challenge–with fewer and fewer actual sales taking place on the show floor, how can you measure whether your show was a success? I began going through the various reports and compiling data that I felt was relevant to our demographic. I pulled information detailing attendee habits, and the importance of trade shows in the buying cycle. I found reports that covered branding, the importance of the marketing mix, and how to best determine the return on sponsorship. And perhaps most critically, I found tools that the exhibitors could use to calculate and prove their return on investment in the show. I then began incorporating this information into my exhibitor education, such as our Exhibitor Summit, which traveled to four cities last year. The response was fantastic, and exhibitors who attended marked higher satisfaction on their post-show surveys.

I have also been using CEIR data as a benchmark to help promote the value of my show. Our exhibitor prospectus always includes the national average of time that attendees spend on the show floor. What better way to illustrate the value of your event then by being able to show that attendees spend more time on your floor than they do at other shows?

With the information that CEIR provides, I find myself more easily able to respond to the questions and needs or my attendees, my exhibitors, and my event stakeholders. And as data becomes increasingly more critical to our events and expositions, CEIR becomes increasingly more valuable in my arsenal of resources.

CEIR helps me keep my show ahead of the curve.

Jessica Finnerty, CEM, is Manager, Meetings & Events, for the Auto Care Association. Opinions are her own. She can be reached at

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