The first edition of The Profitable Trade Show by Michael Hough ...
is now sold out. But we are working on the next edition which we hope to publish in late 2004. Meanwhile, this web site provides practical, "how-to" information for all who produce face to face events such as exhibitions, trade shows and conferences.

Profit Tips
White Papers
Large Show Roundtable

Also Available

White Papers Index

W1 - All is Not Well

W2 - Sample of a Memo to Content Partners

W3 - Ten Commandments for Speakers

W4 - 100 Tips in 75 Minutes

W5 - All About E-Newsletters

W6 - The Other Two Legs

W7 - Five Mistakes Associations Make

W8 - 15 Attendance Promotion Tips

W9 - Ten Questions to Ask When Considering a Launch

W10 - 15 Cost-Saving Tips

W11 - 15 E-Marketing Tips

W12 - Strategic Review of a Show

W13 - Launching a New Event

W14 - Avoiding Attrition Penalties

W15 - The Case Against Audits

W16 - Co-location for Fun and Profit

W17 - Improving the Association Show

W18 - International Attendance Promotion

W19 - Helping International Visitors Obtain Visas

W20 - Fixing the Machine

Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum

Large Show Roundtable


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:

  1. Are you doing audits now? 82% no

  2. 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 the discussion:

  1. 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.

  2. Most exhibitors care about the quality of people who actually come to their booth and not how many total attendees are at the show.

  3. There are no audit standards and therefore an audit could be used to pad the numbers; for example, by including spouses, children, etc.

  4. 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.