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ECEF Celebrates 15 Years

Danica Tormohlen
, Editor-at-Large
June 8, 2016
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Sam LippmanWashington, DC – More than 200 industry executives gathered to discuss the key issues facing the trade show industry at the 15th annual Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum (ECEF), held June 1 at the JW Marriott. This year’s event attracted 220 industry professionals, compared with 218 last year, said Sam Lippman, President, Lippman Connects. 

Launched in 2001, ECEF started with 105 attendees and has grown steadily over the years. ECEF is a one-day event for C-level executives at associations and independent organizers.

“We had a record number of attendees for our 15th event,” said Lippman. “I’m honored that I have been given the opportunity to produce this event for such a discerning and appreciative audience.” 

At the opening keynote, Karen Chupka, Senior Vice President of CES & Corporate Business Strategy, for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), discussed creating new opportunities for your event. Chupka offered a number of examples of how CES has thought beyond booth space as the show and the industry continues to evolve.

“What would you do if someone approached you about doing something for only one day of your show? How would you price it and what would you do to help make that happen?,” asked Chupka. When Turner Sports approached CES about broadcasting live from the show floor for one day, the CES team worked to come up with a solution that would work for everyone. 

“It was a nontraditional ask,” said Chupka. “Usually a company has to be there for all four days to exhibit. Turner wanted to launch a new professional league for video gaming at CES.” In the end, CES found some space at the Venetian, Level 2, Hall D, which was available until Day 3 of the show. 

In addition to Turner Sports’ live on-site event coverage of the first-ever Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship, the space also hosted the inaugural Sports Business Forum. It was presented by Turner Sports in partnership with NextVR, and TNT’s Sports Inside the NBA – with host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal – televised live from CES.  

“This was clearly a win-win for both of us,” said Chupka. “We added an experiential component to our show. It only happened on one day, and we priced it in the six figures. Turner paid that flat fee, plus a sponsorship fee for the conference portion, as well as all costs for building out their stages and displays.” Turner is returning in 2017, and other brands have inquired about doing something similar. 

Session Highlights

The one-day event offered sessions by industry professionals and outside experts. Trade Show Executive has identified several key takeaways: 

  • Exhibitors want more data. A panel of exhibitors – which included certified trade show managers from GE Healthcare, Marvin Windows & Doors and Minitab who collectively exhibit in 300 shows annually -- told the audience they often don’t get the attendee data they want and need to make informed decisions about exhibiting and to follow up on leads in a timely manner. “Beyond total attendance, we are looking for demographics and breakdowns of attendance by exhibitors, professionals, guests, press, students, etc.,” said Dana Tilghman, Senior Trade Show & Events Planner, Minitab. “At a minimum, it would be helpful to have job titles.” While this seems like a pretty simple request, it’s obviously not happening with all shows. 
  • The decision to exhibit involves more people. For many companies, the decision to exhibit requires more levels of approval than ever before. “Before signing a contract, I have to get a lot approvals -- from legal, marketing, compliance and others,” said Diane Bensen, Americas Exhibit Leader, GE Healthcare. “There’s a long list to get it done.” David Loechner, CEO, Emerald Expositions, agreed. “The length of time for exhibitors to make decisions is expanding because of more turnover, more people involved in the decision-making process, and a more sophisticated analysis of ROI.” 
  • IoT is the evolution of big data. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects — devices, vehicles, buildings and other items — embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. “It’s detection without connection,” said Rob Mesirow, Partner, PwC. “Retailers have already been doing this for years. Each person has about 2,000 unique detections or 5,000 to 10,000 total data points per day. You can learn a lot about customer behaviors even though the data is anonymous.” Shows can work with suppliers – maybe even those outside the trade show industry -- to create graphs and dashboards like those used in retail environments to track store and aisle traffic. “Data will rule the world, and he who understands it will win,” said Mesirow.
  • Attendee acquisition benchmarks and trends. According to a recent survey by Trade Show Executive and Lippman Connects, shows spend an average of $308,561 (exclusive of staff costs) on attendee acquisition or 14% of the event expenses. The average cost per attendee is $32.66. According to a poll of ECEF attendees at the event, 44% have full-time staff dedicated to attendee recruitment and sales, up from 20% of ECEF attendees in 2013.
  • F2F gains value. During a panel about new event realities, Loechner, Deborah Sexton, President & CEO, PCMA, and Charlie McCurdy, Chairman & CEO, Informa Global Exhibitions, all agreed that face-to-face events will be more important in future. “We see an increased importance of face-to-face, but paradoxically people have less time to be there,” said McCurdy. “Face-to-face is not going away, but you have to know your audience,” said Sexton. “It will be harder for companies to reach customers face-to-face, so companies will have to be more efficient at shows,” said Loechner. “We are in the connectivity business, not the booth business or conference business.” 

To download copies of the presentations and white papers, as well as view photos from the event, go to ECEF 2017 will be held May 31 at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC. 

To view video from the event, go to 
To view ECEF 2016 coverage on Storify, go to

Reach Sam at (703) 979-4904 or



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