Making Data-Driven Decisions to Develop Strategies

Making Data-Driven Decisions to Develop Strategies

CEIR CEO Cathy Breden reflects on the value of applying CEIR research to support data-driven strategies that grow your exhibitions.

By Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM | CEO | CEIR

I enjoyed listening to IAEE’s webinar last week with Chairperson of the Board Marie Browne, Group Vice President at RX and IAEE President and CEO Marsha Flanagan discussing the top 10 trends in the exhibitions industry. Hearing Marsha talk about how she and her team use the data CEIR produces in developing the strategies for IAEE’s events reinforces the importance of this research. As an objective research foundation, CEIR helps provide perspective and insights in these times that appear as constant chaos and change.

Marie and Marsha’s conversation inspired me to share some of my top tips for how to use CEIR research in making data-driven decisions that lead to developing strategies for your event.

Tip #1: Be Efficient with Your Time

Don’t want to read a full report? Use the infographic(s) provided for each report to see how your show measures against the benchmarks. Are there areas where your show excels or falls short? The data in CEIR’s reports will help.

Tip #2: Make the Event Performance Analyzer Work for You

Be sure to submit your data through the Event Performance Analyzer. Just four data points are needed: net square feet of exhibit space sold, number of exhibiting companies, number of attendees and gross revenues.

CEIR data shows that business-to-business exhibitions have not reached pre-pandemic levels. Find out how your show is performing against overall performance and by the industry the show serves. It will help you set KPIs to achieve and to identify areas of discrepancy against the four data points. This information will help with setting realistic goals for the next edition of your event.

Tip #3: Understand Your Audience

All organizers want to grow attendance at their shows. The first step is to understand your audience – both those you know and that untapped audience. While a post event survey is helpful, what about that untouched audience you would love to have at your event?

Knowing the channels where your audiences are is one piece of information that can help. CEIR’s Attendee Acquisition Trends research reports there are 14.7 channels being used. Have a strong multichannel strategy that includes both digital and traditional outlets. For instance, knowing the social channels your attendees frequent will help you understand the social channels to use for marketing the show. If organizers are able to deliver qualified attendees, the exhibitors will come.

Tip #4: Take Good Care of Your Exhibitors

It is worth noting that exhibitors primarily fund the event and it has been tough for them as business recovered from the pandemic, especially for the smaller companies. Understanding the exhibitors’ pain points will help define a sales strategy.

Several of the challenges are outside of the organizers’ control. In CEIR’s Exhibit and Sponsorship report, those pain points that are not controllable include inflation, increasing cost of travel, the economy and health of the industry sector, and supply chain disruptors. The two items where we do have control are the cost to attend and the cost of the exhibit booth and sponsorships. Taking care of your exhibitors with a customer-centric approach will go a long way.

The point of this blog is to stress the importance of using a variety of information sources and data to build strategies for growing your show. Doing so helps to justify your recommendations and actions with data-driven decisions and, more importantly, set your show up for growth.

There were several other business trends discussed in IAEE’s webinar that I think are worthy of keeping in mind:

  • There has always been discussion about who our customer is. Is it the exhibitor or the attendee? I suggest both exhibitors and attendees are equally important. The attendee experience is critically important and, in many instances, it is the exhibitors who are funding those experiences.
  • Foster a culture of continuous growth and learning within your organization. This is especially important as the younger generation grow in their roles.
  • Back to my original comment about how we are living in a time of chaos and constant change: prioritize the wellness and mental health of staff.
  • And, finally, be positive; be courageous and be transparent with your staff and your business.

I encourage you to take full advantage of the research and resources offers! After all, we are all working toward the same goal of achieving great outcomes with our exhibitions.

About the Author






Cathy Breden serves as CEO for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and Executive Vice President & COO for the International Association of Exhibitions & Events® (IAEE). She is a frequent presenter on the areas of exhibition industry trends and the power of exhibitions in face-to-face marketing. Cathy is a Certified Meeting Professional Fellow (CMP-F), Certified Association Executive (CAE), and Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM). She is a graduate of Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.

Share this:


Attendee Acquisition for B2B Events is Changing

The B2B Exhibition Industry Recovery Forges On, Proving Its Resiliency Again

Understanding Business Sustainability in the Context of Environmental Thresholds