Summary on 3rd CEEEF

CENTREX International Exhibition Statistics Union, the leading Exhibition Knowledge Provider of Central Eastern Europe has successfully organized the 3rd Central Eastern European Exhibition Forum (3rd CEEEF). Basically it followed the projects of 2nd CEEEF (on fair education) and the unique CEE visitor survey conducted in 6 countries, at 35 fairs among over 6,000 visitors. 

This new first-ever initiative and experience was relevant to the title Changing Roles of Research in Adjusting Fairs to Current and Future Demands’. The international workshop held in Prague has in details highlighted the growingly sensitive topic of interrelation between economic / sectoral development and exhibition industry trends, their presence and appearance in economic and exhibition research. It also presented collaborations and business opportunities between economic, market research institutions and trade fair industry 

Questions which have been discussed included how exhibitions and fairs reflect and relate to economic trends, consumer preferences and fantasies, how fairs respond to anticipated and factual economic changes and how fairs facilitate economic development, mostly in the small and medium scale sectors. Sources of research information and research methods were put to table and screen, advantages and difficulties of in-house and/or ex-house research options were 

Competitiveness in Europe and in other part of the world was brought to face the evolving demand on fair organizers to assist their partners to measure Return On Marketing Investment. Researches have assisted trade fair associations to develop suitable tools to upgrade their ability to respond changing environments in business and leisure relevance. 

Invited speakers and participants were coming from reputed international research organizations from Central and Eastern Europe and from West Europe (altogether 55 participants from 11 countries), debating and analyzing future challenges and opportunities. 

Keynote speaker Mr. Pál Belyó Director, ECOSTAT (HU) in his address dealt with the topic of the practical roles, implications of business and consumer confidence indices. It was on of the deductible assumption that even the same economic outlook in one country leads different segments of economy and the consumers into rather different assessment of the future. Mr. Belyó’s presentation on Large Company Prosperity Index, on Prosperity Index for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises as well as Economic Expectation of the General Public clearly indicated these diverse assessments. 

Many speakers spoke about the necessity that exhibition organizers must understand macroeconomic trends, business models, must know the markets. Mr. Jiri Kulis, advisor to CEO Veletrhy Brno (CZ) has brought up the US as an indication that exhibition trends in the different sectors has an understandable correlation to the GDP trends and the deductions made from knowledge of economics and markets are prerequisites for exhibition successes. He cited the Exhibition Industry Index (EII) and presented graphs to show the GDP and EII implications. He was of the opinion that an index like EII can also be considered as a macroeconomic indicator. 

He often mentioned that the US is faster than Europe and it is a growing challenge for all of us. In spite of all this he came to the conclusion that the major challenge is how exhibition organizer can cope with the United Corporations the visible effects of globalization. Quite a few participants disagreed to the applicability of US models in Europe. 

dr. Norbert Stoeck, Practice Group Manager, Roland Berger Strategy Consulting, Germany had his presentation on Macroeconomic impact of trade shows. In macroeconomic effects of the MICE sector 2 different elements can be discussed: tangible economic effects (hard facts) and intangible economic effects. 

Tangible effects are quantitative, quantifiable, measurable effects with regard to additional Gross Value of Production (GVP), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Employment and Taxes. These are normally the basic arguments in case of a decision to invest, to erect a new fairground or new hall. 

Intangible effects are usually not measurable: Image, Marketing, Investment, Politics, Tourism. 

He presented German examples and additionally Brno’s survey which underlined that total effects indicate that the additional Gross Value Production in Czech Republic was 7.1 times the turnover of Veletrhy Brno, while the total employment effect has been 16 times higher that the total workforce of the company. Employment effect is spread almost all over the industries. He drew the conclusion that trade shows are ideal means to boost the economy and living standard of a city and its surrounding region and it has substantial influence on the local society. 

In Session B Dr. Hermann Kresse, CEO Kresse & Associates recalled a TNS EMNID survey among non-exhibiting companies, which tried to find out reasons for staying away from exhibitions, and perception of trade fairs and advantages, weak points and potentials for future exhibiting. It was general opinion that the backbone of exhibition industries are the small and medium scale enterprises. But: the market leaders are needed as lighthouse exhibitors. 

He has pointed at a seemingly contradictory pair of answers: high costs were named as the weakest point of trade fairs, but ultimately the companies backlisted cost factors as a less decisive point: they mentioned as high importance to get assistance in making exhibiting as easy as possible, offering attractive introductory packages for first-time exhibitors and for SMEs and special customer care for first time exhibitors. 

In order to activate them, trade fair organizers must communicate that the value-cost ratio of trade fairs is balanced and success factors of trade fairs are measurable! 

It was emphasized and often reiterated that trade fairs & exhibitions are sensual innovation marketing, they are places for experiencing innovations. 

Mr. Péter Komlósi, Research director of SZONDA-IPSOS Hungary has presented their 15-years research experience at fairs and tried to give an overview of the changing role of exhibitions – at least how they are reflected in the past researches with benchmarking. 

Regarding role of exhibitions from the visitors’ point of view, as objectives for visiting there was a continuous growth of factors like: 

  • to get acquainted with novelties (from 71% to 86%!!!)

  • good program, entertainment (from 64 to 79%)

  • information source for buying (from 36 to 54%)

In their research exhibitions as communication marketing tools trends of the last 3 years showed that 

  • For the exhibitors the exhibitions, fairs are one of the most important marketing-communication means,

  • good program, entertainment (from 64 to 79%)

  • The growing importance of the new communication tool – Internet – didn't affect the role of the exhibitions, but seriously affected the importance of the traditional media (press advertisements are less and less important).

  • Personal sales’ importance has been growing, Direct Marketing and partner meetings have stagnant importance.

He came to a conclusion that through exhibition research the organizer can reconcile the interest of exhibitors and of visitors! 

dr. János Barabás, CEO of HUNGEXPO CCo. Ltd. has presented the other side of the coin: HUNGEXPO has been ordering and using researches made by SZONDA IPSOS for 15 years now. Under the title 'Converting Survey Results into Business Decisions' his presentation could be taken as a follow-up to Mr. Komlósi on product development. 

He then explained the practical use of researches made during their leading industrial fair INDUSTRIA (Industry Days) to induce a brand new strategy. This strategy is developed on the basis: 

  • Macroeconomic data and background market information

  • Analysing current state of industry and of the economy

  • setting new future vision – primarily consulting with professional institutions

  • Competition analysis (analysing the concepts behind key elements of major competitive exhibitions) an in-house exercise

  • Trends in exhibition figures and contents – also in-house exercise

  • Analysis of exhibitor and visitor opinion – through questionnaires

Mr. Jan Herzmann, owner of Factum Invenio, a reknown research company in Czech Republic spoke on the economic impact of exhibitor and visitor surveys in the Czech communities. 

He has built his presentation on key questions: Why should exhibitors and visitors come and what shall the fair industry offer to exhibitors and visitors? 

In theory, the answers are known: by attending, they will maximize return on their marketing investments (ROMI) and improve their sales in an efficient way. In other words, presence in the exhibition should be the most efficient way how to spend the marketing budget 

Further key questions include: who can really prove that it works and who can measure ROMI linked to exhibitions? (for exhibitors and visitors alike) He was of the opinion that in practice, the fair industry lacks arguments and the exhibitors lack controlling tools. 

His fair industry paradox No. 1 was that neither exhibitors nor professional visitors ask for cross - check on any money spent on exhibitions using audience measurements– as if return on investment, marketing investment does not matter. When they started asking exhibitors and visitors about economic efficiency of fair attendance, they have not found any quantified answers. And there was no research into this problem. 

The fair industry paradox No. 2. lies in the fact that any service provider aims at two basic target s : present clients (and retention) and potential clients (and acquisition). These two targets define two spheres of mark e t research application. In the fair industry, individual providers (fair organizers) fight for their present volumes. Anybody tries to sell to new clients, no one puts it on top of the priority lists. As if new clients do not matter. There was no research into this problem – at least not in the Czech Republic. As if in case of fair industry, those who do not attend remain forgotten. 

He then mentioned a non-representative study made by them on the decision-making on fair attendance (why and how). The questions went into these companies how do they evaluate efficiency of trade fairs and how do they decide to go again. 2/3 of them said the typical approach "just feelings" and there was not much difference between those who attended and of those who do not want to go there. A minority of them evaluated oncontacts and sales volume. (25-30%). Real economic thinking was exceptional. (7%) 

In his conclusion Mr. Herzmann made remarks on the way-out what the fair industry could do to support its own position. His Fair industry research initiative is a syndicated research offered to clients. Exhibition organizers can count on the professional marketing researchers, but it is the organizers who must come up with the initial financial investment for this. 

Mr. Marek Baluska, Marketing manager of AGROKOMPLEX, Slovakia has made a summary of what roles exhibition researches play in university level education. 

Students often ask: Are the companies still "in for it"? Are they coming? A recent survey made in Nitra showed that 46% of the exhibitors came just on the initiative of their own. It means that history is still present. 

Mr. Baluska then explained what steps of planning a participation as exhibitors’ tasks are being taught for the students. The starting point of setting targets has been demonstrated by results of the same survey. For second step defining selection criteria he described information on fair concept, transparency in the number of exhibitors and visitors and structure of them. This is where CENTREX plays important role of reference. 

The students hear about the survey among exhibitors about share of trade fair expenditure within their communication budget. A survey could show the growth of successful business contacts at fairs in the past 3 years. 

As a major point of university study it is the monitoring of participation results. What can be monitored, which methods are being used, is the feedback favourable by different factors? By latest analysis an exhibitor registered in average 91 business contacts in 2005 at the 7 analysed fairs. The analysis also included structure of possible measurement tools. 

Will the unwillingness of younger companies to use the fairs as marketing tools in future mean a threat for us? Is the proportion of small and middle-size companies changing? This has given apropo for a research into the matureness of exhibitors. There was an aging of exhibitors between 1991 and 2004 surveys – reflecting the pass of time. This brings along the overall necessity to reassess the communication policy towards new or younger companies. Much more sophisticated and sounded communication styles are necessary and ... a lot of fantasy! He recommended to take this as essencial topic of the next CEEEF forum in the near future. 

Session C, which was devoted to daily praxis of exhibition research and collaboration between research organizations and exhibition organizers the first speaker was Mrs. Enrica Baccini, head of Research and Development Studies of Fondazione Fiera Milano. She explained their experiences in 3 areas of their activity: industry research (MICE), economic clusters (sectoral) research, territory (regional) research (economic impact research). 

The Industry research collects info about MICE and trade fair industry, and about general economic environment. They serve as input for strategic knowledge management. These are useful tools for the implementation of long term strategies as basic knowledge. It operates as the Economic Observatory. 

Another important argument also comes from the Economic Observatory: the commitment to innovation of exhibitors and technology transfer through trade fairs: Exhibitions are not only marketing tools but also tools for innovation. 

They have observed a growth among European exhibitors saying that they will introduce innovation thanks to attendance at the fairs (from 49 to 57%). There is a good standard level of European exhibiting companies with an internal R&D department (58%). 

The Economic cluster research is aiming at obtaining info and in depth knowledge on the industrial sectors that stand behind the most important fairs (horizontal and vertical links between industries and their corresponding trade fairs). Fiera Milano is focusing on the economic clusters performance in Italy and in Europe, follows technology and innovation trends in the clusters: the fairs themselves give ample scope for this as well as for the internationalisation of the clusters. And these innovative companies are the best clients for exhibition organisers. 

The Territorial research was started when decision was made on building a new fairground – to demonstrate to city government and to the citizens that exhibitions are good business for them. They studied the territory transformation. It was assumed that transformation was because of new competition among companies. This was taken from urban scientists. Other factors are the new way of working of the people, and a new way of living of the citizens. 

Based on this they studied the economic impact of the new fair center, the new professions evolving, and the lifestyle of those living in the vicinity of the new venue. It was important to understand that not only the economic aspects should be taken into consideration but also the social aspects. The new site has changed from an earlier industrial site (refinery) into a big service sector entity and this must have been explained – and mostly to the young people. In the territory analysis they came up with the point to consider exhibitors and visitors not only as clients but also as a new urban population: city users. 

In a survey it was studied how Fiera Milano city users spend their spare time during exhibitions. The leisure activities were closely followed by cultural interests, cultural services – and this is a big part of the induced economic impact factors. In this survey it was also seen how participants from different continents behave differently. 

Lucie Zumrová, marketing director of Trade Fairs Brno under the title “Experiences of exhibition research and its relevance to changes in exhibition development“ has presented the importance of surveys for Trade Fairs Brno. 

In her part of presenting practical examples of surveys for Trade Fairs Brno she made distinction between regular survey and ad hoc surveys.

In regular surveys: 

  • Quantitative surveys between visitors and exhibitors during trade fairs

  • Qualitative surveys between exhibitors during trade fairs

Ad hoc 

  • Survey of image / Localisation of the fairs

  • Contribution of Trade Fairs Brno for the region

  • Impact of trade fairs

  • Definition of barriers of passive participation of the non-exhibitors and non-visitors and their potential motivation

  • Surveys of catering, parking, implementation of new projects, etc.

They also made an analysis of trade fairs effectiveness: what trade fairs bring to the participants’ business. 

In summing up the key benefits of trade fairs

  • High quality of impact – length and intensity of contact with the media

  • High spontaneous ability to identify exhibitors

  • High effectiveness of the fair in relation to pro-purchasing behaviour

  • Higher effectiveness lies in higher number of customers, in shorter time, and in lower sales costs. Survey costs should not represent expense, but an INVESTMENT.

Veronica Blanariu from ROMEXPO was the next to speak about in–house or outsourcing of exhibition research. Regarding exhibitor research until today it is done in-house, by own staff: to all the exhibitions (more than 40 events). Visitor surveys until 2000 were outsourced, from 2000 it is mainly in-house activity for both B2B and B2C shows (with technical help from marketing students for whom it is useful professional exercise as well). 

Then she has in details compared main advantages and disadvantages of exhibitor and visitors research done in-house. She then tried to list the main advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing as case studies. 

As conclusions she has mentioned, the most important issues upon in-house or outsourcing research are: 

  • asking the right people

  • asking the right questions

  • taking the right decisions after the analyses (to take the short and long term strategic directions)

Mr. Valerii Pekar, President of Euroindex Kiev has brought up the values and use of information received and surveyed from visitor registration. Visitors' registration provides:

  • Reliable data for audit of statistics

  • CRM data for next events

  • Important marketing information, eg. structure of the audience, use of fairs, efficiency of communication campaign, popularity of different media

He stated that some prerequisites existed for the visitor registration. Online registration is easy and faster then on-spot registration and visitors readily do it. 

What the organizers get: 

  • easy audit

  • easy repeated selling, cross-selling to visitors

  • transparent structure of the audience (marketing value of the fair)

  • efficiency of marketing campaign (less money, more results)

  • visitors’ opinion on some important issues. This helps to adjust fairs to the needs of relevant business communities.

A few remarks concerning statistics: 

  • The two-dimensional analysis helps to know more about visitors and the market

  • It is worth combining visitor registration with sample polls and confront the data

  • When asking about the market it is due to know that with the registration we only learn opinion of those who come – so take due respect of those who do not come to us

Ms Raphaële Neveux, deputy director of Foires, Salons et Congresses France (FSCF) and head of OJS, head of studies and development mentioned that the studies they have conducted have ignited changes as far as their members’ activities are concerned. 

She took 2 examples: 

  • The case of multibranch fairs which are particular kind of events in France

  • Measuring efficiency of participating at fairs

The survey on multibranch fairs have come up with a visitor profile that showed the multibranch fairs present a market of potential customers with high revenue. 

As conclusions to elaborate messages 

  • the fair allows visitors to

  • buy differently

  • in a warm atmosphere (authentical exchanges)

  • see and touch a large range of products which is not usual in today’s other very uniform distribution channels

  • there was a need to re-position this media among

  • marketing and sales tool for exhibitors

  • information instrument and buying place visitors

As a major outcome / impact for fair organizers a quality label was created: "Foires de France". The main benefits from this work was 

  • improvements in organisation

    - team (role, tasks, involvement)

    - logistics

    - comfort for visitors & exhibitors

  • it creates a good frame for long term development.

  • It improved communication to visitors and journalist

  • But it is yet more difficult to use the Label towards exhibitors, to make them understand the advantage.

As second topic Ms Neveux has presented their study on measuring efficiency of participating at an exhibition. 

  • What are the advantages of trade shows and exhibitions in comparison with other media?

  • How to measure efficiency of exhibitions?

  • How organizers can help?

In many cases fairs and exhibitions are considered N°1 (before advertising, direct marketing and sales visits) for achieving exhibitors’ goals. Other results were that

  • exhibitors consider that, among 4 tools exhibitions offer the best ratio cost / efficiency (44%), before sales visits (32%), direct marketing (13%) and Ads (11%)

  • 66% of exhibitors have to justify their spendings

  • 61% think it’s possible to measure ROI


  • 61% don’t set goals when participating

  • 62% intend to develop the use of other media (internet, direct marketing)

On the question if they really compare before they choose the media 

  • only 60% of exhibitors really compare efficiency of media before using one

  • Cost calculation is usually not complete

  • Regarding tools used to measure the practices are very limited.

Marketing consultant has defined, formalised 6 main goals for communication to promote participation. After formalising these main goals the consultant has elaborated guidelines for organizers sales forces on each goal:

  • examples of actions to suggest to exhibitors

  • evaluation indicators proposal

  • how the organizer can help (additional offer)

As an impact on organisers FSCF has edited pedagogic tools so a decision was made to create an expert system. Its first step shall be presented at the annual FSCF congress.

In the following debate Mr. Boguslaw Zalewski raised the point that under surveys and research ultimately we speak about 2 different groups of surveys: surveys of our "products" and the surveys about our very sensitive marketing "tool". He felt it may be difficult to bring these 2 kind of surveys under one roof. In his other remark he was trying to find explanation why are so few implementations of innovations at our partners. The exhibitors often say that they regularly doing innovations, inventions. But fairs could give a chance to solve the most important problem: to transfer these innovations from prototypes to industries. 

Károly Nagy reiterated that many of the participants spoke about fairs as tools of innovation. It was sad to see the discrepancy between visitors demands (over 60% came to see new products, novelties) and exhibitors reluctance to make it happen: only 10% of the exhibitors came to present new products) This means we have to gain much more power to get this very important message through: Fairs are sources, tools, focal points, platforms, venues and boosters of innovation! 

During the debate different views emerged whether visible and existing relationship between economic trends, GDP changes and exhibition trends could be observed. It was a general opinion that further research into this might be very useful. 

(Summary was made by Károly Nagy)