Spotlight on Leaders and Trends

The world of exhibitions is filled with stories of amazing people.

Some enjoy universal recognition while others prefer to remain in the background  doing their part to make our industry stronger. UFI is proud to introduce a  new initiative called, "Spotlight on Leaders and Trends."

UFI's Barry Siskind, will take an in-depth look at the life and  career of one of these key industry figures. This will focus on the key  issues we face through the vision of those who are working hard to make our  exhibition industry responsive and dynamic.


Glenn Hansen, President and CEO of BPA Worldwide

Interviewed By: Barry Siskind, UFILive Community Manager (30/12/2013)

Glenn Hansen is a familiar face at UFI and other international events. He is the President and CEO of BPA Worldwide which under his leadership has become the world’s largest independant provider of media assurance. Like many of us, Glenn’s career began on adifferent path but a strong instinct for the pursuit of truth led him to BPA. Glenn’s life is all about numbers but behind the statistics lies an interesting and charming man with a great story for all of us.

Barry: Many people find their career in the exhibition world after starting on a different path.   You  worked as an Assistant Director for the Boy Scouts of America, majored in planning and administration at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and, before joining BPA, worked as an officer with the US Customs Service. How did your varied background prepare you for the work you now do with BPA?
Glenn: BPA Worldwide is an assurance provider. We verify that what is being said about an audience, product, or service is true. I'd say we are in the truth business. My education and previous employment were all based on ferreting out and telling the truth. More specifically my time as a professional Scout, and attaining the rank of Eagle Scout taught me a basic principle I live by every day, simply, "IT CAN BE DONE".  My edcuation at John Jay College of Criminal Justice gave me the foundation for understanding the business of pursuing truth and how to plan and administer a team tasked with accomplishing this. And finally my border patrol work with US Customs taught me how to be successful in detection of the truth through person-to-person interrogations and investigation.

Barry: What attracted you to BPA Worldwide?
Glenn: BPA Worldwide has six organizational qualities that I found irrestible: It nurtures an enviromnent of independent work, maintains the highest ethics, rewards hard work, promotes employees from within, provides an opportunity to travel the world and is constantly in pursuit of truth.

Barry: What was the organization like when you first joined?
Glenn: I joined before overnight delivery, fax machines, and computers. Work was audited putting pencil to paper. Databases were maintained on metal plates used for addressing. Codes on those metal plates had to be tallied and checked against the organizer's counts. And of course we wore the finest business suits every day. That was thirty three years ago when we only had a few hundred customers with one office in New York and another in Chicago. We were a small but highly respected company.

Barry: You moved up the ranks first as the Manager of Market Comparability, then Eastern Region Manager, then Western Region Manager and twenty years later you were appointed President and CEO. Your career path must have given you a unique perspective on the world of data collection and interpretation. How has the field changed during your tenure with BPA?
Glenn: One thing that has not changed is that we at BPA want to meet, network, commiserate, and move forward. The obvious change is that what used to take months to accomplish now takes just minutes. I recall the challenge of setting up international trips to visit multiple companies. There would be lots of letters and expensive phone calls and long waits for confirmation.. Now with email, mobile phones, SMS, business is much easier to organize.
Of course technology has impacted data collection and validation as well. We now know more today than ever before. Sometimes I think there is too much data and not enough data intelligence. I see this as a market opportunity as do others.

Barry: In your thirteen years as company head what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Glenn: Leading us through a transformation from business publication audits to a worldwide business of providing assurance.

Barry: When you took the reigns of the company what changes did you want to implement?
Glenn: On day one I literally did not know what to do. I was thrust into the job. I knew operations, administration and governance, but I wasn't sure what a president should be doing.
So, I relied on one thing that BPA does religously which is to survey our members regarding our services. There, sitting at the president's desk - my desk - I focused on that month's survey responses. It struck me that the job of CEO was to listen to stakeholders, harness their ideas, rank their concerns and implement. And, it's been a lot of fun doing just that!
But truly what I have learned is that a CEO's job is mostly about selling and most of my time is devoted to doing just that.

Barry: Your official bio states that you are certified as an “Associate Sustainability AssuranceProvider.” How does this designation fit into the sustainable management dialogue?
Glenn: In the sustainability space, there are two possible avenues to travel when conducting an assurance business. If you are a public accountant, (financial auditor) you will conduct your business according to the International Standard for Assurance Engagements (the ISAE 3000). A non-financial auditor (which BPA is) is prohibited from using ISAE. For the non-financial, we have AccountAbility 1000 (referred to as AA1000). To provide assurance using the AA1000 principles, one should be licensed and then certified. The first step is schooling and passing an exam to be an "associate".

Barry: How has the role of the media buyer changed?
Glenn: Media buying is a specific function. However, when we use the term "media buyer" we are referring to anyone in the ecosystem who makes a decision to spend marketing dollars on advertising in all channels including marketing services.
When I started in the business, media planners and media buyers both worked at advertising agencies. Respectively, they did the planning and buying of display advertising space for a campaign. It typically did not involve multiple channels and rarely would that person be involved in a decision to exhibit.
With the advent of the web, and the metrics that have followed, marketers have developed a seemingly insatiable appetite for immediacy of data from every channel and they are constantly challenged to make sense of it all.

Barry: From a media buyer’s perspective what are the similarities and what are the differences between the media spend and face to face?
: In the ad agency, the media person wants to be informed when the message created is not producing the desired result. Marketers want KPI's  (Key Performance Indicator) and the resulting benefits from each form of marketing. Regardless of channel, marketers want to know for each dollar they spend what was the resulting benefit. Face-to-face is no different than any other channel, but in face-to-face, meaningful data is largely missing.

Barry: In many corporations, exhibitions are not given the same attention as other forms of marketing. Do you agree with this statement?  
Glenn: I agree with this statement to some degree. However, it’s important to remember why this is the case. In the ongoing search for revenue growth, marketers are shifting energy toward a more complete marketing mix for their brands through the integration of print, online, face-to-face and social media. With this shift has come the need for more comprehensive, qualitative data for each channel utilized. Nearly all channels available to marketers provide not only metrics by which to measure successful marketing campaigns, but, in many cases, the available data has been confirmed as accurate by an independent third party. This makes the buying process far more efficient and effective as comparisons between brands can be made using accurate, transparent information.
In the exhibition industry, however, brand marketers are still relying on event producers’ unverified registration claims of attendance and demographic information to create measurement metrics and justify marketing budgets. Unfortunately, without accurate, substantive data, any measurement exercise will only produce inaccurate unsubstantiated output. We see a great challenge in North America alone where less than one percent of all business-to-business exhibitions confirm the accuracy of their attendance and business demographic data through an independent third party. With no competitive comparisons between exhibitions, marketers cannot know if an event will be an effective addition to their full marketing mix. They have started asking for this type of accountability, yet show producers remain slow to adopt. Marketers cannot then justify the budget costs for exhibition participation to management and CMOs must make the tough decisions on overall market strategy based on those channels providing performance metrics.

Barry: UFI has been a strong advocate of exhibition audits. What do you think is the underlying reason for resistance to audits from many non-UFI members in various countries around the world?
: It is BPA’s experience that the reticence of show organizers to provide audited information comes primarily from the fear of reporting actual attendance and business demographic figures in place of the current practice of reporting numbers of registrants. There is also a lack of understanding about the audit process; what is reported; how much it costs; and the importance validated data holds for marketers and the global exhibition industry overall. Such an important best practice provides an industry natural resource (third-party validated data) that can be utilized by, and shared with all stakeholders. BPA continues to lead the way in providing industry stakeholder education at conferences, seminars, through white papers, case studies, webinars and our participation at various global industry events.

Barry: What can the exhibition industry learn from organizers who provide independently audited results?
Glenn: The industry can learn that creating trust between seller and buyer is a good thing and that providing transparency is a sustainable business practice. Audited trade show companies (for-profit, independent or associations) are benefitting their sales/marketing teams and their customers greatly by understanding that audited business demographics provide proof to brand marketers and their management of the value of participation related to their own sales/marketing strategy. Audited data lets sales teams create a more consultative interaction with their customers by targeting validated audience profiles, geographic origins of those profiles and the business demographics reported. It creates competitive advantage and differentiation when two or more industry-centric exhibitions are competing for exhibitors/attendees. This information provides vital investment justification for renewing exhibitors loyal to the brand, as well as first-time investors.
The decision to participate should be simple when choosing between an event proving their market through audited attendance/demographic figures and an event with unsupported claims. Exhibition management can use the report to analyze their industry segments for growth or shrinkage. Attendance marketing teams can be more effective with their promotional efforts by reviewing their reports’ geographic breakouts. If audited regularly, trends can be spotted and analyzed to forecast and market effectively.

Barry: There has been much talk about “Big Data.” How can the exhibition industry use data better?
: Transparency is the foundation of improved data use and increased credibility throughout all industry transactions. Because BPA is a global company, we have the advantage of interacting with many different regions. Our global exhibition industry experience has provided some interesting insights about data use and data gathering. An organizer’s use of data is directly related to the type of data gathered and the process by which this is accomplished. The audit process allows for a quality control review of a show organizer’s complete data-gathering process which directly influences their use of the gathered data.
The sharing of this data through the transparency of a publicly released audit report allows industry stakeholders the opportunity for improved decision-making related to advanced logistics planning with convention and visitor’s bureaus and venues, attendance marketing and exhibition and sponsorship participation.  

Barry: Does too much data create a “paralysis by analysis,” mentality?”
Glenn: Unfortunately, it would appear at first glance that the exhibition industry doesn’t have the problem of “too much data”. However, it depends on what type of data you’re talking about. I stated previously that in North America alone, less than one percent of all B2B trade shows/events are being independently third-party validated. In other global regions, auditing is being done to fulfill a membership requirement (UFI) or as a check to ensure attendance accuracy for government subsidy payments (Shenzhen in China). Much of the exhibition data provided globally comes from survey research and in lesser part by associations like UFI and AUMA whose beneficial work includes the collection and availability of audited attendance figures. While survey research is important in understanding developing trends and historical perspective, audited, census-based data provides a concrete basis for all measurement metrics and benchmarking systems.

Barry: In your opinion, what is the future of face to face events?
: Sustainability and innovation are required for the continued success of the exhibition industry. And the future of the industry and face-to-face events globally, like other industries, is in our younger generations. Education is critical to these new participants as the Baby Boomers move on to retirement and Generation X, Y and Zers make their mark. Universities all over the world have created curricula and post-graduate degrees for meeting, event and conference planning, as well as for the hospitality industry. A number of industry associations offer important relevant credentials through their own educational programs as well and the list continues to grow. Our world’s young people bring fresh ideas through their increased hardware and software technology expertise, through a need to be a sustainable business and through exciting marketing strategies derived primarily in their daily use of social media. It is imperative however, that the experienced generations shepherd the new ones for an understanding of past challenges and accept alternative solutions that may break with stale traditions.

Barry: How do you see technology impacting this future?
Glenn: I see technology having a large impact on the future of the exhibition industry. As this occurs, sustainability and accountability will gain momentum. We already see the registration process affected by technology through advances like RFID (radio-frequency identification) used to account for an event’s visitors’ onsite attendance verification and behavior. Smartphone software and app technology is beginning to gain a foothold for onsite attendee services and networking notifications, as well as for scheduling business meetings and lead tracking and retrieval. Technology is allowing the industry to adopt sustainable business practices in strategic planning from pre-show stand building and marketing to post-show lead nurturing and sales tracking.

Barry: Will virtual events replace face-to-face?
: The value of face-to-face interaction is too great for virtual events to ever replace it.
The impact of personal interaction is why exhibitions continue to be one of the best ways to market products and services, not to mention for creating brand awareness and providing important networking opportunities. If strategized properly however, the incorporation of a hybrid or virtual event can increase the impact and the value of an exhibition long after the face-to-face aspect is over.  

Barry: I’d like to find out a bit about Glenn Hansen the man behind the company. Tell me about your family.
: I am married and have three children, all in their 20’s. The youngest is almost finished with college in Alabama.  With college done for all three, I expect the next life cycle will likely bring weddings, but nothing yet.

Barry: What do you do in your leisure time?
Glenn: I play ice hockey a couple of nights a week with the Darien Winter Club in Darien, Connecticut. I also am part of the 50+ team that plays in the tri-state area as well as in Canada.
I also love to scuba dive. I dove the Great Barrier Reef, Hong Kong Harbor, Manta Point in Bali, Turtle Canyon in Hawaii, the kelp beds of Catalina, the Omani Sea, U-Boat 852 off the coast of Carolina and many others. I find being weightless and at depth to be extremely relaxing. The oceans are majestic.
I enjoy flying my plane, a Cherokee 6X equipped with the latest technology so flying it is a blast. I have flown from my house northeast of New York City to as far south as Miami and Tampa, Florida and west to Denver, Colorado. The highlights of flying for me have been touring Manhattan through the Hudson River corridor at sunset or a full moon lit night, flying the Grand Canyon and of course being buzzed by F-16 fighters so close you can see the pilot. Totally cool!

Barry: How to you deal with time you spend at airports or on airplanes?
Glenn: As I answer your questions I am stuck in Heathrow trying to get to the UFI Conference on Sustainability in Geneva. It’s a five and a half hour delay due to fog! Gratefully there is Wi-Fi and always plenty of work to do or pilot manuals to read and flying APPs to maintain my proficiency.

Barry: What book are you now reading?
: Monuments Men, I am a big fan of anything about World War II. A best gift ever was the book, “Wine and War”, tracing what happened to the great wines of France during the war. Monuments Men is about recovering or protecting art and architecture in Europe during the war.

Barry: What business book had the biggest impact on you? Why?
: Most recently, “Implementing Value Pricing” by Ronald Baker. After reading it, I bought 25 more copies for all our VPs and managers. It is serving as our guide for transforming our pricing model from open ended hourly billing to one based on the value of our service coupled with fixed price agreements. It is changing our business culture and pleasing our customers.
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