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CES Breaks Down Its Auditing Process to Prove Value to Exhibitors

CES 2024 show floor

CHICAGO — The Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) CES 2024, which took place Jan. 9-12 in Las Vegas, was 15% larger than CES 2023, with more than 2.5 million net square feet of exhibits, more than 4,300 exhibitors and 135,000+ attendees. 

The CTA follows UFI — the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry’s guidelines for auditing its annual trade show. By working with a third-party auditor, CTA is able to confidently report their numbers and apply to become a UFI Approved International Event.  

“Independent audits provide comfort for our exhibitors and their CMOs, who expect hard numbers to justify their marketing investments,” CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said. “Trade show organizers are competing for marketing dollars with targeted social media spending, activations and other advertising, and exhibitors want to see measurable financial results from the money they’ve invested. Doing an independent audit pays off easily, producing trustworthy data helping justify an exhibitor investment.” 

Trade Show Executive talked with the CTA team to get a first-hand look at what the auditing process is. 

CES’ Auditing Process 

The first step in the auditing process begins before the show starts with a systems appraisal. During this step, the auditor will look at registrations coming in to see if CTA is capturing the data they say they are using its “master filtration spreadsheet,” which is a spreadsheet outlining every question, pop-up and payment option. 

Then, CTA shares an exhibitor list with the auditor close to the show’s opening to provide them with an updated listing of companies to select from. During the show, the auditing team will randomly select about 100 exhibitors and audit the overall square footage and total exhibitor counts.  

The auditor is looking to ensure that the exhibitor is present, in the correct booth or suite and includes the name anticipated or contracted. They also will review the approximate dimensions of the space.  

“Additionally, they want to make sure we’re counting “direct exhibitors” meaning that we’re not including illegal shares or other exhibiting companies that aren’t on the contracted agreement,” said Adrienne Whitestone, Director of CES Operations. 

Once the show ends, the CTA team begins its internal data cleanup process. 

The Art of Data Cleaning 

“We review media who were approved on-site, we review duplicates, we review students, we review the total number of speakers and any speaker changes that may have happened on-site,” Whitestone said. “We look for any kind of anomaly in the on-site data we can find. We work very closely with the data team and conferences to make sure that the data we handover to our auditor is as accurate as possible.”  

The CTA team shared that duplicates are the biggest issue they run into with more than 135,000 attendees. 

Once the data is clean, the team members will run the same basic top line numbers for total attendance, total international and total industry attendees among others. Once every team member returns the same results, the audit continues moving forward. 

Related. CES 2024 Gears Up for 130,000 Attendees and Creates Seamless Experiences

“The auditors create their own queries based on the documentation provided in the master filtration file,” Whitestone said. “They’re checking to see that our documentation matches what they see in the database one more time by utilizing back-end field names on the master filtration to make sure everything is, what I call, matchy-matchy.” 

To look at the total attendance, the auditor will pull a sample size from each group and begin outreach asking registrants to confirm attendance and some of their registration details. Once the sample size can confirm statistical significance, the auditor will run their own checks looking for any red flags that could impact the final numbers. 

Once the information is finalized, the auditor will run the audit report and share the first draft of the report with CTA to review. 

“We’re typically looking for any additional anomalies — numbers that don’t add up or make sense, countries represented that we don’t normally see and overall making sure the report is clear, easy to read and most importantly, accurate,” Whitestone said. 

Once the CTA finalizes the report, the auditors will fill out the official application form to become an UFI Approved International Event. 


Through its auditing process, CES is an UFI Approved International Event, which means international visitors must represent at least 5% of the total number of visitors or the number of direct foreign exhibitors and multinational exhibits must be at least 10% of total exhibitors. Whitestone says CES aims to meet the standard of multinational exhibits making up at least 10% of exhibitors because that data is easily available from their audit. 

The UFI Approved Event label serves as a “global stamp of authority for high quality exhibitions,” which in turn helps increase the confidence in the show as a place to do business. 

The data collected through the official auditing process also provides the marketing team with the ability to create a more robust audit that includes media reach and highlights of the show, and this larger audit can be used as a sales tool. 

Reach Gary Shapiro at 

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