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Exhibitors endorse new event audit guidelines

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B-to-b exhibitors applauded new audit guidelines proposed last month by the IT Event Measurement and Audit Council, saying the standards would help boost their confidence in trade show numbers released by event producers and influence their event decision-making.

The standards include event audit definitions, a description of the auditing process, measurement standards for attendee quality and standard metrics that exhibitors should expect in every audit.

IT EMAC was formed last year to help standardize event auditing in the technology industry. MediaLive International, which produced Comdex and produces Networld + Interop and other technology trade shows, was a driving force behind the effort.

Standards for more than IT industry

While the standards were intended for the IT industry, they are expected to be adopted by the entire b-to-b event industry by the first of the year.

"Essentially, it means we get some commonality in how we look at what has occurred at events-who is there and what kind of audience we attracted collectively as a group of exhibitors at a given show," said Jeff Singsaas, director of events at Microsoft Corp. "Now the show organizers can present results with a common basis for understanding."

Singsaas said the standards would influence Microsoft's decisions on which events to participate in. "Any event that declares they are not going to use the standards would give me pause in considering that show," he said.

Singsaas said Microsoft has reduced its participation in large industry events, particularly with the cancellation of the fall Comdex, and has increased its participation in shows that attract well-targeted audiences, including the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and FOSE, a government IT trade show. He said Microsoft is still evaluating which events to participate in next year.

"We're looking at how we can conserve our spend," he said. "It's not necessarily true we'll take the Comdex money and spend it elsewhere. [The cancellation] happened at the end of our fiscal year, so now we will look at the whole portfolio [of events for 2005]."

Kimberly Gishler, marketing communications manager at Hewlett-Packard Co. and president of the Computer Event Marketing Association (CEMA), said of the list of audit standards, "I think it will bring a more intelligent view of the overall measurement of events across the board. It will increase the confidence level of exhibitors being given information from event producers."

Marilyn Kroner, marketing communications manager at Quantum Corp. and past president of CEMA, said the audit standards would help the entire event industry.

"The impact for exhibitors goes above and beyond the guidelines," Kroner said. "Everyone participated for the good of the industry. There were open discussions between exhibit managers who have shows that compete with each other," she said, referring to the process of setting the guidelines.

Now, a new council is being formed to spearhead compliance with the guidelines. Steven Hacker, president of the International Association for Exhibition Management (IAEM), said his association would lead that effort. The working name of the new association is the Event Industry Audit Commission. The auditing task force of the IAEM is now in the process of seeking comments on the draft guidelines and appointing commissioners to the new audit council.

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