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Exhibition World | Feature29Why do people resist auditing?In this competitive industry,anyone will earnestly declarethemselves an advocate oftransparency - in others. But how abouttheir own events? There is still a strongresistance to official audits.But nevertheless, auditing is key ifyou want to be taken seriously bypotential exhibitors. As of this summer,global exhibition industry associationUFI requires that all members provideaudited confirmation of at least one oftheir international exhibitions. According to Glenn Hansen,president and CEO of exhibition auditorBPA Worldwide, an innate fear of auditing exists amongorganisers and associations round the world. "Withoutthe strong demand from exhibitors and no requirements,organisers are not proactive about auditing," he said."The result is very slow growth."Hansen claims the lack of demand for transparencyand the lack of proactive audited statistics providers aretwo major challenges facing the exhibition industry.Organisers, he believes, haven't yet realised the benefitsof being able to prove the quality of their visitors topotential new clients, especially when trying to attractbusiness from abroad.The value of an audited show to a financial officerlooking for demonstrable ROI can not be overstated. Theold organiser adage of quality over quantity couldn't bemore apt. Audited numbers will provide concretedemographics data, not simply registration figures. Afterall, a light-pen rarely distinguishes between a handful ofhigh-powered buyers and a single stressed-outsalesman who takes frequent cigarette breaks.Ultimately, embracing the practice of auditing will leadto the growth and cultivation of the medium of exhibitionswholesale. The more believable the results, the moredemonstrable the efficacy of the medium as analternative to other marketing methods. Financialcontrollers would then make decisions on employeeattendance based entirely on a provable return.Audit anxietyThe fact remains, organisers are reluctant to audit a showin case the figures they have been quoting to theirexhibitors prove exaggerated."We refer to this as the organisers'fear factor, and it definitely exists," saysHansen. "It's not limited to a specificregion of the world. The problem evenexists within exhibition organisationsand associations who may beproviding registration numbers insteadof verified data."Unaudited shows will often use theirregistration numbers to promotethemselves, even though the variationbetween the number of visitors whopre-register and those who actuallyturn up usually varies between 10 and25 per cent and sometimes even ashigh as 50 per cent. If the advertisedpre-registration numbers are that much higher thanactual attendee figures, it's bad for the exhibitors. If theyare lower, it's bad for the organiser. Either way, the lack oftransparency can lead to distrust and dissatisfaction inthe exhibitor/organiser relationship."The common perception is that all unauditedexhibitions inflate their numbers. Registration data isoften used as a final figure by organisers who have noverification methodology set up on-site to actually provepre-registrants did attend. Registration figures are oftenused by organisers who do not wish to provide theverified numbers even when a robust verificationmethodology exists."Organisers who are afraid to have their registrationdata verified should remember exhibiting companies thatrebook must have a reason for returning to the showevery year. "Clearly the exhibitors in this category feel the show isproviding them with value which engenders a certainsense of loyalty to the organiser," says Hansen. Butloyalty alone is not enough to bring an exhibitor back ifhe's offered alternative tradeshow options. Organisersshould realise that they can immediately raise the level ofconversation with renewing companies, as well as withnew prospects, by focusing on verified visitordemographics."The exhibitors already know how many people are visitingthe event, through their own booth traffic," Hansen says."This is all that really matters to them. Organisers wouldmake their shows invaluable to their already loyal exhibitorswith the audited data because, on top of loyalty, a deepertrust will form through the act of being transparent." Learning to countGlenn Hansen, president and CEO of BPA Worldwide, speaks to Mike Trudeauaboutthe misplaced anxiety that accompanies show auditing.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| Nov/Dec 2010|Glenn Hansen