Last week we reported that the International Association for Exhibition Management had about doubled its membership in 2006, to more than 6,000 members. While attendance at last week’s Expo! Expo! annual meeting, held at the San Diego convention center, didn’t double, IAEM’s president, Steven Hacker, CAE, said at a press conference that approximately 2,300 people came to the event this year, up from last year’s 1,926. (Final attendance numbers for this year’s conference won’t be released officially until they are vetted by audit.) Hacker attributes the increase in attendees, like the increase in membership, to the organization’s change in structure from a professional to a trade association. The change means a company, rather than an individual, pays membership dues and can allow as many staff as it chooses to be members. He anticipates that membership will reach 6,700 by year’s end. The exhibition also grew, with 38,600 net square feet at this year’s show, up 2,800 net square feet from last year.

The plan is also to grow the association in other ways, something that became official as the membership voted to change the name to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. “Some big companies are moving out of conventional shows, but not out of events,” said IAEM 2006 chairman Sandy Angus. “There is no doubt that events are where it’s at.” IAEM leadership said the name better reflects the group’s strategic plan to broaden the scope of the organization to include all aspects of the exhibition industry, in particular the growing corporate exhibitions and events area. The name change, which was raised and tabled at last year’s convention because of procedural issues, went through without a hitch this year, with 79 percent of voters approving the change.

IAEE also is moving forward with plans to continue globalizing its membership. Angus said, “The more we get involved [in other countries], the more we will be able to influence what happens elsewhere. The Chinese in particular want to embrace Americans.” Edward Liu, managing director of Conference & Exhibition Management Services Pte Ltd. in Singapore, was honored at the opening general session as the recipient of the 2006 Chairman’s Award. Liu has worked hard to help IAEM open offices in Singapore and China. According to Hacker, the international push will continue. “We have a Certified Exhibition Manager program under way in Mexico. After China, Mexico is likely to be [the next place we visit]. Mexico is well-positioned to serve as a gateway to South and Latin America.” He added, “We’ve been working feverishly to stop [the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require travelers to the U.S. from Mexico, along with the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, and Canada, to present passports by June 1, 2009] from disrupting travel.” Hacker also noted that the Third Edition of the Art of the Show textbook, which will be available for sale December 15, has been issued in Mandarin as well as English.

Showing Them the Money
Doug Ducate, president of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, which merged with IAEM earlier this year, announced at the conference that the World Shoe Association has provided a $1 million grant to CEIR. “After 28 years, we finally have a solid financial base from which to operate,” he said at the press conference. However, he said the organization doesn’t intend to rest on its now-more-lucrative laurels: “The gift is the alpha, not the omega,” he said. “We hope it will be followed by others that will allow us to do even more research.” A committee has been formed to recommend the best way to manage the new influx of cash.

Craig Nauta, CEIR’s managing director, also had some good financial news to report at the meeting: The Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Orange County Convention Center’s plan to donate $50,000 to IAEE’s Exhibition Industry Foundation. The funds will be used to produce a new video series aimed at helping exhibitors to maximize their trade show experience. Nauta said the evolution of the foundation, formed as a result of the IAEM/ CEIR merger, “will be to support education, research projects, and promotional efforts.”

ROI Tools Coming Soon
IAEE also has been hard at work developing a set of tools exhibition managers can use to show exhibitors how they can maximize the impact of a show on their business. Developed by the IAEM Task Force for ROI Resource Development and the Exhibition and Event Industry Audit Commission, the tools are designed to enable exhibitors to calculate a return on investment for their trade show dollars. At a session led by Skip Cox, president, Exhibit Surveys Inc., and John Mikstay, manager events audit, BPA Worldwide, attendees were walked through the process, which includes an attendance audit and a survey of attendees to gather data with which to make the calculations. “The size and value of the audience is the key quantifiable factor in the decision to exhibit at a show,” said Cox, emphasizing the importance of attendee auditing to ensuring that event marketing spend is linked to the actual business impact of exhibiting.

Hacker said that the ROI calculator is fully developed, tested, and ready to go. It should be available at the IAEE Web site by January 2007.