Trade Show

ATA Trade Show: The Science Behind the Final Attendance Numbers

“We are a member organization and have a commitment to report the truest and most accurate attendance numbers to our members,” said Maria Lewis, ATA’s senior director of Trade Show and membership. “Everything centers on creating an environment that facilitates business.”
Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Author: Katelyn Rutland

When the ATA Trade Show closes, and the products, displays and brochures are packed away, ATA staff turn their attention to one of the Show’s most important matters: verifying attendance numbers.

“Our Show is an important part of our industry’s business and networking landscape,” said Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO. “That means we have to pay attention to the same numbers any business does. That’s why we work hard to have verifiable numbers.”

Maria Lewis, senior director of Trade Show and membership, echoed those thoughts. “We are a member organization and have a commitment to report the truest and most accurate attendance numbers to our members,” she said. “Everything centers on creating an environment that facilitates business. Verifying all members and badging all individuals correctly are two critical pieces of this effort. The final piece is reporting actual verified attendees.”

McAninch said exhibitors are especially interested in the number of retailers, distributors and accounts they saw. These numbers directly affect the numbers of orders they write, and people new to and interested in their brand.

“We always track the number of businesses and individuals per business,” McAninch said. “Reporting those numbers is probably the most important thing we do, and the one we take the most seriously. The ATA is committed to making sure those numbers are accurate. We want our businesses and members to take those numbers to the bank.”

The Verification Process


The ATA developed a registration process that’s easy for attendees, and provides the means to accurately track and verify attendance. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Scott Gieseke, ATA’s information systems and membership manager, outlined the ATA’s verification process. “Attending the Show begins with ATA membership because it’s a members-only show,” Gieseke said. “The primary means for establishing attendance numbers is our membership and registration software.”

Lewis said the ATA’s registration process is easy for attendees, and provides the means to accurately track attendance.

The software tracks company names, individuals, membership types and contact information; whether the member registered for the Show and booked a hotel room; and more. For press members, the software also indicates whether the badge application is verified and approved.

“We pay close attention to our pre-registration numbers leading up to the show, but our final attendance numbers only count those who showed up in Indianapolis and printed a badge onsite,” Lewis said.

How does the ATA accomplish this?

Before the Show, each member approved for Show badges receives an Express Pass with a barcode via email. “That barcode can be accessed on a smartphone or mobile device,” Gieseke said. “It’s then scanned at any of the Express Pass kiosks at the Trade Show venue.” When scanned, the kiosk prints the proper badge containing all relevant membership and registration information housed within the ATA’s software. That badge can then be scanned to track attendance at seminars, certification classes and more.

At the end of the Show, the ATA downloads the list of all printed badges, whether printed from an Express Pass kiosk or at main registration. ATA staff then remove canceled, reprinted and invalid badges from the list. This process leaves only valid attendee badges.

Every badge is tied to an individual from a specific ATA-member company, which further confirms the Show’s final numbers. Reprints are issued only after paying a “lost badge” fee. In those cases, the duplicate names and companies are removed from the final attendance numbers.

“This is the single, most important reason we must ensure everyone on the Show floor wears their badge,’” Gieseke said. “It’s our members’ Show, and we owe it to them to be certain that only ATA members are in attendance.”

2017 ATA Trade Show by the Numbers


The 2017 ATA Trade Show drew 9,629 verified individual attendees, including staff, volunteers and guests, to Indianapolis. Photo Credit: ATA

For this year’s Show in Indianapolis, the ATA verified 9,629 individual attendees, including staff, volunteers and guests.

In addition to tracking individual attendees, the ATA tracks the number of badges per company, and the number of single companies in attendance. This year, 1,057 individual retailer/buyer/distributor companies attended the Show. Sixty-eight percent of distributor companies and 89 percent of retailer/buyer companies brought 2+ attendees. Those additions boosted the individual retailer/buyer/distributor numbers to 3,388 total attendees in that sector.


Accurate attendance numbers are crucial in ensuring the ATA reaches all sectors in the industry, and provides a complete industry perspective to Show attendees. Photo Credit: ATA

Lewis said the ATA is committed to reporting the truest and most accurate attendance numbers to its members. “These numbers and the demographics and trends that go along with them provide critical insights that can fuel more sophisticated marketing and forecasting for future shows,” Lewis said. “It’s extremely important to us to get them right.”

McAninch echoed that commitment.

“Immediately after each Show, we focus on incentives to increase attendance in certain sectors,” he said. By increasing attendance in certain sectors, the ATA can offer a complete industry perspective to Show attendees.


This map highlights the retailer and distributor companies from the United States and Canada that attended the 2017 ATA Trade Show. Photo Credit: ATA

McAninch invites members to let the ATA know of businesses they’d like to see at the Show that don’t attend. “Tell us who they are, and we’ll work hard to bring them to the Show and improve the Show experience for our members,” McAninch said.

To provide feedback about the 2017 Show, please contact Maria Lewis, ATA’s senior director of Trade Show and membership.

For a closer look at the Show’s attendance numbers, download the comparison tables here.

Are you interested in hearing what retailers and manufacturers said about the 2017 Show? Read the testimonials here.

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