The Case Against Audits
by Michael Hough
At the 2003 Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF),
there was a lively discussion about audits. The 100 attendees
represented a broad cross section of high level executives from
both associations and for-profit firms. The consensus was definitely
against audits as reflected in these results
of an interactive poll:
Are you doing audits now? 82% no
Will you audit your next event? 69% will not
When asked why they do not audit, 38% cited the lack of exhibitor
demand while 26% said an audit does not tell the entire story.
Here are the specific objections to audits as voiced during
There is no analogy between publishing and tradeshows when
it comes to audits. When an advertiser runs an ad, it can
never be sure who is seeing the ad and therefore some sort
of proof of audience quality is needed. However, the exhibitor
actually eyeballs the attendees at a show and therefore can
measure quality directly.
Most exhibitors care about the quality of people who actually
come to their booth and not how many total attendees are at
There are no audit standards and therefore an audit could
be used to pad the numbers; for example, by including spouses,
Audits are expensive for those who have multiple shows. For
example, one for-profit organizer would have to pay $300,000
to audit its 50 shows.
The consensus was that we need more accuracy in attendance
reporting. That is what the industry should be emphasizing
and not audits.
Michael Hough is an industry consultant and author of The
Profitable Trade Show. He welcomes discussion on this topic at
Copyright 2003, MRH Associates, Inc.
All rights reserved.