By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
With a presence in the industry spanning almost 35 years, Freeman’s Vice President of Research and Measurement Ian Sequeira has made a name for himself as a dependable contributor to IAEE’s initiatives. As Chair of the CEIR Research Council, he has played a significant role toward providing dependable and insightful research to members of the industry.
Ian has advocated on behalf of exhibition and event audits, and has been generous with his time by serving on various IAEE and CEIR committees and task forces. Known for his methodical approach, Ian has kept a keen eye on industry trends and has been a loyal educator to the exhibitions and events community for over three decades. The impact he has made on the industry and his fellow colleagues merited him IAEE’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018.
Here, Ian shares with IAEE his thoughts on the benefits of event audits, the truth about research and what he sees in the industry’s near future.
IAEE: Research is such a vast field, yet you have focused on the exhibitions and events industry. What drew you to this industry and what has held your interest in this type of research for over three decades?
Ian: After graduate school I needed to job, so I actually applied to many different types of businesses. I didn’t really have a good sense of the exhibition industry or research at the time. Yes, I had some basic research training in school, but it was by no means my first choice of career. Fortunately, I had excellent mentors in Dick Swandby and Skip Cox at Exhibit Surveys who made my journey much easier and rewarding. Now, almost 35 later, I am still enjoying what I do (ok, maybe the hectic travel gets to be drag sometimes). I’m learning constantly, enjoying the relationships I have made, and am blessed to be able to give back and share knowledge via speaking and participating on various committees and Boards. This is an exciting industry and I hope to continue to be part of it for some time to come.
IAEE: You have been a long-time advocate of event audits. What do you see as the most important reason for show organizers to audit and perhaps the most unexpected benefit they get from doing so?
Ian: I do believe in audits, and the most important benefit to organizers is transparency. The reality today is that not enough events/shows audit, and if you ask them the reason, it is almost always “our exhibitors are not asking for it.” I think the truth is somewhere in between. Cost is certainly not a barrier. For some organizers, an audited count might be somewhat lower than what they have been reporting, but their attendance is actually very solid. However, they are caught up in the cycle of having to report increases year over year. An unexpected (and often overlooked) benefit is the ability of their exhibitor base to use the audit to quantify the size of their target audience and determine for themselves the quality of the audience the show is attracting. It gives them ammunition in the quest for the sometimes-elusive ROI (return on investment) they are seeking.
IAEE: You have been commended for your meticulousness when it comes to your approach to research. What do you see as the most common misconception people have about research, and what is your solution for combating it?
Ian: A common misconception is that the research will answer all questions. Sometimes it does, but often times it raises additional questions that may have to be addressed via further exploration. I always try to set realistic expectations in the design of the research. Research also helps to validate what you might know at a “gut” level. It’s much better to speak with data as your foundation than merely opinion.
IAEE: Your nominators applauded your volunteer work on IAEE and CEIR’s various committees and task forces. What would you tell someone who is considering, but unsure of, taking a more active role in the association?
Ian: Just do it! It’s an opportunity to learn, give back to the industry and make new friends. It has been extremely rewarding for me, and in the grand scheme of things, the commitment is really not all that onerous.
IAEE: Where do you see the industry in the next 5 years, 10 years and beyond?
Ian: I like to look 3-5 years out so I can speak with a bit more certainty. I am very bullish on this industry. Attendees, exhibitors and organizers have become more sophisticated, and are recognizing that they have to be more nimble to adapt to changing trends. We are much more digital today and that will continue. I see all the disruptive technologies (such as AR, VR, Chatbots, Beacons, etc.) enhancing the overall face-to-face experience. The event of the future will be much more experiential. From the show floor, to the class rooms, to the networking receptions. It’s an exciting time for the event industry and I plan to be a part of it for some time to come.
Here’s what Ian had to say when accepting the Distinguished Service Award this past December at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2018 in New Orleans, La.