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The CEIR Index provides an objective measure of the annual performance of the exhibition industry. It measures year-over-year changes in four key metrics: 

  • Net Square Feet of Exhibit Space Sold 
  • Professional Attendance 
  • Number of Exhibiting Companies 
  • Total Event Gross Revenue


The CEIR Index is designed to be representative of the entire universe of U.S. business-to-business exhibitions. Exhibitions are defined as any event with at least 3,000 NSF of exhibit space and 10 or more exhibiting companies.

Census - Universe of Exhibitions

The CEIR Census provides the basis for the universe of the North American exhibition industry. The latest census, conducted during 2015, is for exhibitions that took place in 2014. It catalogued about 9,400 business-to-business exhibitions in the U.S., comprising (in round numbers):

  • NSF – 285 million
  • Attendees – 32.5 million
  • Exhibitors – 1.3 million
  • Revenues – $9.3 billion.

It is extremely difficult to obtain metric information for all business-to-business exhibitions in the U.S. CEIR made a great effort in the 2015 Census to collect the universe of exhibitions in North America. As a result, the number of primary data sources has increased more than threefold. CEIR has obtained much better coverage of the industry and now can provide better data for each metric. While it is more complete and accurate, the 2015 Census is incomparable with past censuses. Using the new census, CEIR has recalibrated a complete set of historical data.

Based on the similarity of underlying macroeconomic factors (such as consumer expenditures or investment) and the size of grouping, the universe of about 9,400 business-to-business exhibitions was divided into 14 industry sectors. The number and distribution of exhibitions are broken out in the table below. For readers interested in knowing which sectors are included in each CEIR industry sector, click on the hyperlink for that sector.

Industry Sector #of Events %of Total
BZ Business Services 860 9.1%
CG Consumer Goods and Retail Trade 430 4.6%
CS Discretionary Consumer Goods and Services 406 4.3%
ED Education  863 9.2%
FD Food 377 4.0%
FN Financial, Legal and Real Estate  696 7.4%
GV Government  478 5.1%
HM Building, Construction, Home and Repair 324 3.4%
ID Machinery and Finished Business Inputs 168


IT Communications and Information Technology 1,045 11.1%
MD Medical and Health Care 1,992 21.1%
RM Raw Materials and Science 864 9.2%
ST Sporting Goods, Travel and Amusement  484 5.1%
TX Transportation 435 4.6%
Total Events 9,422 100.0%


Collection of Sample Data Outside the Census Years

Vault Consulting collects sample data on an ongoing basis, and was able to collect data for the majority of the events held in the past 16 years. The data comprised the following six key pieces of information:

  • Event Date
  • Event Location (City, State)
  • Total NSF of Exhibit Space
  • Total Exhibiting Companies
  • Total Professional Attendance
  • Total Revenue

Completed surveys were returned to Vault Consulting and each event was placed in a “sector” based on an extensive list of sub-categories that make up each top-level sector. The data then were entered into a database and reviewed for completeness, data quality and reasonableness. The data also were reviewed in the aggregate to ensure that each sector had a statistically sufficient amount of samples. 

Construction of Sample Data for Each Metric in Each Sector

Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. (GECA), an independent economic consulting firm, is responsible for the construction of the CEIR Index Report. The building blocks for the CEIR Index Report are the year-over-year percent change numbers in each of the four metrics for an individual event. To avoid sampling bias, only events that have data points in consecutive years can be included. More than 90 percent of the events surveyed were held on an annual basis. For events that were held biennially, GECA interpolated the data for the “in-between” year. For example, if an event reported NSF of 7,000 in 2005 and 9,000 in 2007, GECA estimated NSF of 8,000 for 2006. This enabled biennial events to be included in the CEIR Index Report. Any event held less often than biennially was not included.

To detect potential data reporting errors, GECA computed four analytical indicators – NSF per exhibitor, attendees per exhibitor, revenue per NSF and revenue per exhibitor. A follow-up inquiry was made if there was a dramatic change in any indicator.

Next, for each metric in each sector, GECA computed the sum of each metric across all sample events in each sector that has a “pair” of numbers (the same metric for the same event in two consecutive years) for each year and then calculated a percent change value. For revenue, GECA uses the consumer price index (CPI) to adjust for inflation and generate real revenue before computing the percent change of revenue metric.

CEIR reports both index values and metric levels such as attendees in thousands. The base year is set at the census year 2014. Thus, the index value for each metric in 2014 equals 100. GECA uses percent changes of sample events to generate index values for 2000-2013. Similarly, GECA uses percent changes of sample events to generate metric levels for 2015 and 2016.

Construction of Total Index for Each Sector

For each year, the four component index values – NSF, exhibitors, attendees and real revenues – are calculated independently from each other. A geometric weighted average is used to calculate the fifth CEIR index value called “Total,” which is intended to reflect the overall performance of each sector. There is no theoretically “correct” weight for each component – it all depends on the purpose for which the index is used. Since there are diverse interests among users, CEIR decided to apply an equal weight (0.25) for each metric. Using a geometric average reduces undue influence from a dramatic change in any particular metric.

Construction of Metric for the Overall Exhibition Industry

Each metric, such as NSF, for the overall exhibition industry is calculated as a sum of the values of that metric for each of the 14 sectors. The index of each metric, where 2014=100, is calculated from its level, i.e., by dividing each year’s level by its 2014 value and then multiplying by 100. The Total Index for each sector and for the overall exhibition industry is a geometric average of the four component indexes.

Forecasting of Metrics

GECA and Inforum (an economic research center associated with the University of Maryland) jointly developed econometric models for each metric in each sector. Common explanatory variables (macroeconomic drivers) for exhibitors, attendees and NSF are sector-related output, consumption expenditures and employment. In addition, total personal consumption, investment and GDP may be included. While supply and demand of exhibition space play some roles, real revenues are mainly determined by NSF and attendees. Inforum provides the forecast for those macroeconomic drivers to generate forecasts for each metric.