IAEM's Steven Hacker
While the trade show industry has wrestled with
the issue of attendance audits for some time, a new burst of
interest from the IT sector has proponents talking about setting
standards and making audits common practice.
“It is fascinating that the trade show industry is the last
unaudited area in the media,” said Jeff Singsaas, director of
events for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp., “especially
considering the dollars involved.”
Microsoft joined forces with other tech giants to create the IT
Event Measurement & Audit Council, led by San Francisco-based
Comdex producer MediaLive International. The so-called IT EMAC held
its first meeting in November at Comdex in Las Vegas.
Melinda Kendall, senior vice president of corporate marketing
for MediaLive, said IT EMAC will develop audit standards. “There
needs to be a greater sense of trust in the figures trade shows
announce,” she noted.
The Dallas-based International Association for Exhibition
Management signed on to the council. “IAEM is using IT EMAC to see
if there is a need for specific criteria for certain vertical
industries,” said Steven Hacker, the association’s president and
CEO. “If that is seen to be important, other industries medical,
for example might require similar treatment.”
IAEM is simultaneously working on its own audit task force,
added Hacker, which will set benchmarks for attendance verification
beyond the technology field. Hacker hopes audits will be common in
three to five years. Already, he said, this is the case in
“The Society for the Voluntary Control of Trade Fair &
Exhibition Statistics conducts audits of trade shows in 20 European
countries,” Hacker said. That association, he added, established
rigid guidelines for attendance verification.
Gary Grimmer, former CEO of Melbourne, Australia’s convention
and visitors bureau, noted more interest in trade show audits,
since out-of-the block hotel bookings have made it increasingly
difficult to verify attendance via housing lists. Grimmer now runs
Data on Meetings & Events, a nonprofit research foundation
headquartered in Melbourne.