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From TSB to CEIR, rising to new research heights

After undergoing various iterations and overcoming challenges as it transitioned leaders, Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) grew to become the trusted research arm of the exhibition industry.

CEIR leaders from 1978 to present: Bill Mee, E.Jane Lorimer, Steve Sind, Don Freeman, Douglas Ducate, and Brian Casey.

CEIR started as the Trade Show Bureau (TSB) in 1978 under the direction of Executive Director Bill Mee. The organization originally served as a promotional arm of the exhibition industry until Mee recognized the value of research.

“Bill was a real change maker. He said promotion without proof is piffle. We needed to do research from which to promote. That shifted TSB to becoming a research agency,” explained Douglas Ducate, president and CEO, CEIR.

Mee retired at the end of 1989, and he was replaced by E. Jane Lorimer, managing director of Lorimer Consulting Group.

“[Bill] was a true gentleman, and he had great passion for the research side of things. I greatly admired him,” said Lorimer.

While serving as president from 1990 to late 1994, Lorimer moved TSB to an educational/research agency. During her presidency, Lorimer established a reference library that housed articles and statistics about the tradeshow and convention industry worldwide and hired a specialty librarian who produced special reports on demand. The library became a resource for major U.S. media outlets and the exhibition industry, according to Lorimer.

“TSB was respected worldwide for that tool. It generated new and increased media coverage for the industry. I’m disappointed [CEIR] did away with the resource library because it was so inexpensive to maintain, and now so much is lost about industry growth and practices from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Some of the earlier white papers would still be of value today,” said Lorimer. “I’m very pleased they still do rich research projects and talk up the state of the industry.”

Lorimer said she continues to use CEIR as a resource.

“It still provides much-needed independent research to benefit the industry, which remains fragmented in terms of groups that serve it. Having an umbrella group that drives all the research needed continues to be a challenge,” she said. “I enjoyed my time with TSB and gained insights about the industry from many perspectives. I am proud to have grown TSB to a point that it needed someone ‘bigger’ to take the reins, and I cherish meeting so many wonderful people along the way.”

When Lorimer’s tenure at TSB ended, Steve Sind stepped in the role. Sind was hired by board of directors’ members Don Freeman, former CEO of Freeman, and Phil Ullo, former president of Reed Exhibitions North America. Freeman and Ullo drove TSB’s name change to CEIR in 1993 to accurately reflect what the organization actually did, according to Ducate.

Then, in 1998, came Ducate, the fourth and current leader of CEIR until December 2013. Ducate helped establish the exhibition industry’s first outlook conference, CEIR Predict. He also worked to release the CEIR Index Report and the CEIR Census, two publications that guide exhibition organizers in their planning and purchasing decisions.

“When I came in, we had a staff of seven and one mailbox. Galen Poss, COO of dmg events, and Gary Shapiro, president of CEA, said the way of the future was electronic communication and that CEIR had to get up to speed,” said Ducate.

At the time, Poss and Shapiro served on CEIR’s board of directors.

“My request was to find someone to take us under their wing. The board chose McCormick Place. Tom Mobley, the general manager, set us up at no cost and made us part of their Internet network. We had IT support and looked stronger than we were,” added Ducate.

Ducate said he remembered two occasions in which CEIR was out of money until companies came to the rescue.

“Like the phoenix, CEIR rose from the ashes,” said Ducate. “The work of CEIR is highly praised. Monetizing that work has been the challenge.”

CEIR no longer has to worry about money issues. It has a joint operating agreement with International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), which provides general and administrative support to CEIR in exchange for CEIR materials being distributed to IAEE’s 8,000 members. Also, at the 2013 CEIR Predict, the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) committed up to $100,000 to support exhibition research, something Ducate attributes to CEIR’s reputation.

“I’m proud of the elevation of CEIR in the eyes of the industry. We’re getting nice responses from companies able to use our products, which are continuing to boost our reputation,” said Ducate. “Our board of directors makes sure we maintain our reputation. They made CEIR what it is today. I’m proud of the people who serve on the board — and that I talked them into it!”

With Ducate’s tenure as president and CEO soon coming to an end, he said he hopes for a seamless transition.

“Seize the moment; don’t lose the momentum,” is what Ducate advises his replacement. “We’re fond of saying take it to the next level. I hope the next person doesn’t take a step back and lose what we built,” he added.

Agreeing with Ducate, Lorimer said she hopes the next leader continues to monitor the exhibition industry’s growth as CEIR currently does.

“The person should also understand the value of the exhibition industry’s history, utilize technology to keep it intact and conduct relevant research that benefits all sides of the industry,” she added.

Effective December 2013, CEIR’s fifth leader will be Brian Casey, who is vice president and general manager for the Cleveland Global Center for Health Innovation & Convention Center. He has more than 30 years of experience in the exhibitions and meetings industry.

Further illustrating how much CEIR has grown since its early days, mayors of four major cities and 152 executives attended the 2013 CEIR Predict in New York City. Ducate added that CEIR’s board members perpetuated this growth and took the organization to new heights.

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