Convention Data Services Focused on Building Relationships for 30 Years

December 17, 2016

Attendee registration was an incredibly manual and time-consuming process back in 1986 when Doug Fletcher saw the need to modernize it. So, he created Convention Data Services to benefit show management, exhibitors and attendees.

Fletcher worked with a business partner who built the software that eventually led to the CDS registration platform. Yankee Dental Congress, Metalcon, Build Boston and SPIE were some of the early clients.

The company grew from two to 15 employees within a few years. Working at the Cape Cod office in those early days had the feel of a start-up company — everyone participated in generating ideas, consistently trying new ways to improve on existing products and services. Fletcher met regularly with clients and prospects, actively listening, learning and adapting to meet their needs.

He also strongly believed that in the face-to-face industry the key to success involved more than just mailing badges, but in providing complete customer service before, during and after an event. Through the years, the focus has remained on building partnerships and delivering innovative solutions to enhance the event experience.

John Kimball began working with Fletcher as a financial consultant in 1995, then joined CDS full-time as Director of Finance in 1996. He was promoted to CFO in 2006.

“At CDS, we focus on building relationships with our clients,” Kimball said. “The onsite environment of a trade show is a unique opportunity for our team to bond with our clients and we travel to their events to
both support the event and build on these relationships. We are not afraid to pitch in anywhere there is a need to help our clients. This also allows [employees] to see how their role supporting our clients’ events in advance impacts what takes place onsite.”

CDS also has a legacy of making employees feel like they’re contributing to something much bigger than just one event, celebrating each success.

Some of those major milestones include:

   - Completing the SFN event in 1997, their first “large” event
   - Delivering their first truly online event with live registration
sites for ICE in 2000
   - Acquiring IMTS in 2009 and delivering on the event in 2010

The company faced a significant challenge in 2006 when founder Doug Fletcher died suddenly. Doug Levinson, COO, stepped in as CEO.

“We knew we needed to reassure our clients and the industry that CDS was built on a strong foundation and we had the leadership in place that would keep it running and on track,” Kimball said. “Our clients gave us the biggest compliment when they assured us they would stick with us and that ‘they believed in the CDS team.’"

When Levinson retired as CEO in 2011, Kimball was selected as his successor and Levinson became Chairman of the Board.

The company has continued to grow over the past 30 years and now employs a staff of 165. This team of employees provides products and services for 95 business and association clients and 250 events worldwide in a variety of industries, many of which have been clients for more than 20 years.

Along the way, the CDS office moved from Hyannis to Bourne (both located on Cape Cod), and a new 30,000-square-foot headquarters is under construction near the current location. The company also has satellite or virtual offices in Austin, Orlando and Washington, D.C.

“Working at CDS for the past 20 years has given me a deep understanding of the trade show industry and the value of relationships,” Kimball said. “I am very thankful for the experience of leading an amazing organization like CDS. Our employees are the most passionate and loyal group of professionals I could ever ask for in a team. I am not surprised at how far CDS has come in 30 years and attribute this success to our people and our unwavering commitment to always be improving.”

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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact