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Maritz CEO: What the CDS Deal Means for the Assn. Market

With his firm’s acquisition of Convention Data Services, David Peckinpaugh now oversees a notably larger association-client roster. Here are his thoughts on CDS and the role of data in association-event success.

For the first time since 2012, when Maritz expanded its events expertise with the purchase of meeting-services firm Experient, the company is again a buyer. This time, the acquisition is Convention Data Services, a registration, on-site, and lead-management services partner for many large trade shows and association events. CDS was previously owned by Freeman.

David Peckinpaugh, president and CEO of Maritz, said on July 8 that “by adding this new portfolio of clients from CDS, Maritz significantly increases [its] share of market and positions [itself] well for the future. This acquisition exemplifies our commitment to supporting association events and trade shows through this era of shifting attendee expectations and behaviors.”

Besides gaining many of the 100 largest trade shows in America as client through the deal, Maritz also benefits from a recent agreement between CDS and Informa, the world’s largest conference and exhibition organizer. As of January 2024, CDS provides registration and lead-management services for many of Informa’s North American events. Informa is the parent company of MeetingsNet.

A Wider View
Peckinpaugh recently told MeetingsNet that “up until 2012, Maritz was 99 percent corporate meetings, events, and incentives. We acquired Experient at that time to strategically add association events and trade shows to our company. CDS is also in that service space with what it provides, but now we are adding the housing capability for CDS clients that they did not have previously.”

However, “our portfolio is not only the big, mega events; those just get the most attention. If you look at the lion's share of our events, they're all across the board—every size and type of association you can think of.”

For Maritz, gaining access to CDS’s events-related data will move the firm forward in its association-related objectives. “We already have a very robust data-analytics and decision-sciences practice, producing a wealth of data in aggregate form; we don't own the individual data, our clients do. But with aggregate data, if you think about us adding the portfolio events and clients that CDS has, it’s really going to enhance our ability to use that data to find and understand industry trends, specifically around things like technology, attendee experience, exhibitor experience, and more. We see this as a big accelerator for an already robust data practice on the event-services side.”

On the other hand, “all this [integration] is going to take time,” he notes. “It's probably going to be one to three years to go through the integration process, but we know from day one the focus is going to be on this: How do we use what we now have to benefit all our clients?”

Data Must Drive Event Strategies
The CDS deal comes not long after Maritz released its 2024 Registration Insights Report, which caused much discussion in the association market because it found that 45 percent of attendees are registering for meetings and trade shows sooner than 30 days out.

From Maritz’ data, “we see that attendee behavior and exhibitor behavior has changed significantly since the pandemic,” Peckinpaugh says. “Timelines and buying behavior and patterns have all changed. We are clearly in an era of evolution” when it comes to developing effective event-marketing strategies. “The main currency now is the value of an event participant’s time.”

Specifically, Peckinpaugh says that “our firm’s design practice has focused on understanding that currency of time and how it’s been greatly elevated over the last four years: ‘If I'm going to spend my time, then the host must convince me that it's worth the effort’” to carve out that time.

How can associations win attendees and exhibitors over? “You must talk to your audience as individuals, in as much of a customized, personalized way as possible,” he says. “And that’s exactly where the data comes into play: being able to build singular relationships because every participant is unique in their needs and desires. Everyone wants the event to speak to them.”

In light of this, Peckinpaugh concludes that “our firm’s top challenge today is understanding each buyer and exhibitor journey, and then designing events with our clients using intentional design that speaks to the individual and makes their decision easy.”

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