Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy

Meet our Thoughtleaders: An Interview with
Glenn Hansen
by John Zeltin. CME, CMP

Return to Glenn's Webpage
Thoughtleaders Main Page

John:    Tell us about BPA Worldwide and its iCompli division.

Glenn:   BPA was founded in 1931 as a not-for-profit membership organization owned by the industry (its members). We were originally created by advertiser, advertising agency and media owners to provide the industry with assurance via an audit of audience claims that what the media member was selling to the advertiser was true. Our latest offering, “Ad iCompli,” measures and scores online ad campaign performance for business and consumer marketers. Our reports are used by advertisers to assess the quantity and quality of a delivered audience.

We have the largest membership of any media-auditing organization in the world, spanning nearly 30 countries. Globally, BPA audits 3,200+ media channels including B-to-B publications, consumer magazines, newspapers, web sites, events, email newsletters, databases, mobile, social and other advertiser-supported media. 2,700 advertiser and ad agencies are members as well. All of this is done to standards established by our board of directors representing the industry.

Over the last decade, we found our organization evolving by member demand such that BPA began transforming from an auditor of media against BPA standards to checking compliance with criteria set by other organizations.

We launched iCompli in 2008 to provide third-party assurance and certification services for organizations which issue standards but do not have a compliance checking arm. Meanwhile, our other division, BPA Media, continues to provide audit services for the media industry.

John:    How did you start out with BPA?

Glenn I joined BPA as an auditor in New York in January 1980 and have held management positions in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. I have served as President and CEO since 1999.

John:    How is BPA/iCompli involved with the tradeshow business?

Glenn:   We have been performing event audits to standards written by other governing bodies, including UFI and the Exhibition and Events Industry Audit Commission (EEIAC) under the auspices of the IAEE) . Depending on their needs, we’ve tailored our offerings to suit tradeshow organizers, including basic attendance audits (quantitative data only); full event audits (quantitative and qualitative) ; and Event Insights – audited audience data combined with post show research of attendees. We also sit on the audit committees for both UFI and EEIAC and continue to help shape the industry standards.

In the UK, BPA is the certifying body to perform audits for the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO). In China, we perform event audits to help organizers meet the parameters of the municipal government’s tradeshow incentive program

John:    Has the tradeshow industry embraced the idea of independent event audits?

Glenn:   Yes and no. While our event audit service has been embraced in other parts of the world, namely the UK, Mid East and Asia – and we are seeing uptake in South America and Mexico – this is largely to satisfy UFI or governmental requirements. This does not exist in the US. In most cases, show organizers in the US are aware of event audits but believe a show audit leads to unnecessary costs and intrusive processes. Add in the fact that exhibitors simply are not asking for audits and it is easy to see why audited attendance data is not widely used in the USA.

However, as the global economy continues down an uncertain road, marketers across all media platforms are being held more accountable for every spending decision. As a result, the need for accurate, independently audited attendance data in the marketplace is becoming ever more important. Event audits are the obvious answer to both organizers – who can use audited data to set their show apart from their competitors – and exhibitors – who can use attendance demographics to choose the right event, staff appropriately and provide accountability to senior management.

It’s been a longer road than we originally anticipated, but event audits are starting to resonate with some US-based organizers, including Expo! Expo!, the Healthcare Convention and Exhibition Association and the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

John:    And now BPA is moving into the sustainability side of the tradeshow business?

Glenn inability initiatives. Event professionals who can incorporate sustainability practices into their offerings can gain a competitive advantage and win business from socially responsible and environmentally conscious clients. As tradeshow organizers – and their suppliers – increasingly demand that “people, planet, profit” become a part of everyday business transactions, it’s important to know how your business fits in. That’s where iCompli assurance services come in.

For the most part, iCompli certifies to two leading standards to assist those in the tradeshow industry as they advance their sustainability agenda. First, we certify to the Green Meetings Industry Council’s (GMIC)  and Convention Industry Council’s (CIC) developed standard published through ASTM International. The industry has defined nine elements of the supply chain, including destination/visitor’s bureau, venue, food & beverage, transportation, accommodation, A/V company, staging and booth construct, communications & marketing and the on-site sales office. The standard defines the considerations for selection in the event supply chain by environmentally conscious event planners.

The second option is the International Standards Organization (ISO)  and its standard “20121” – Event Sustainability Management System The ISO standard addresses the management of improved sustainability across the full event management cycle. An excellent tool for planners is the Sustainable Meeting Planning Program. It is an online system that fosters compliance with both the ISO and ASTM standards.

John:    Has the tradeshow industry embraced the idea of independent event audits?

Glenn:   We have received tremendous feedback. In just 18 months, we have certified more than 20 venues, tourism boards and suppliers to both the ASTM and ISO standards. To date, we’ve performed certifications for McCormick Place, Colorado Convention Center, Las Vegas Sands Expo & The Congress Center, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Global Experience Specialists (GES) and Centerplate, to name a few.

We are very optimistic that those in the industry will continue to embrace sustainability as a best practice and use certification to position themselves as market leaders.
It’s really an exciting time as we help leading organizations set the sustainability bar within the tradeshow industry.

John:    Thank you Glenn for a great interview. I leaned many fascinating aspects of BPA Worldwide and am impressed by the work you are doing. I am sure the many industry leaders and others in the trade show industry who see this interview will appreciate the contribution you are making to the industry.