Exhibition News February 2019 - Page 65

COLUMN: JULIAN AGOSTINI Corporate jamborees The Mash Media MD says the world doesn’t know enough about our industry. We’re a force to be reckoned with and it’s time to show our muscle ‘C heer up, it may never happen’… urgh! Do you struggle with crass, vacuous remarks of this nature? Obviously, it’s only ever said in a light- hearted way but it’s a chronically misguided attempt at humour which rarely improves the mood. ‘It’s only a game!’ is another phrase (often used by a well-meaning aunt) that still manages to raise my hackles in a disproportionate manner, especially if West Ham have manged to ruin another perfectly good week. In a social context, it’s not a crime to minimise something of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, not being blessed with the sensitive gene, I’m probably guilty of this more often than most as I’m constantly reminded by Mash and family. But, despite my glass abode, I’m going to toss a few stones; the difference being that my targets are in the business sector where we should all know better, shouldn’t we? I may be making a rod for my editors’ backs, but in journalism, perhaps more than in any other field, there is a serious obligation to the reader and the community as a whole to deliver balanced, informed views…the truth and opinions from all sides. At Mash Towers, we are proud to have that opportunity and take it very seriously; the printed word, after all, far from being dead, is arguably more powerful than any other communication. If it’s in print, it’s true and you can’t play with that responsibility. So, imagine my displeasure, and surely all of yours, to read Simon Duke’s account in The Times, the BBC of print, about the sale of Mack Brooks. This exhibition business, which was started from scratch one generation ago by Ken Brooks and Brian Mack, was recently sold for £200m; phenomenal and another great “Our industry is full of colour and life and excitingly competitive but, for this quest, we are all in it together” success story for our wonderful industry. Duke described the business’ activities as – wait for it – arrangers of corporate jamborees. I’m not kidding. Please read for yourself, page three of The Times, Wednesday 16 January…incredible. We don’t even organise these merry shindigs, apparently, just arrange them. It’s truly astonishing. I emailed Mack Brooks chairman Stephen (Brooks) immediately; I was seething on his behalf and of course feeling very defensive about our industry. How dare Duke write this? How ignorant. Lazy, poor journalism writing off an entire industry that he clearly knows nothing about. I replied to Duke saying that his description was akin to describing the World Cup Final as a kick around in the park or indeed The Times, as a comic. A stupid, flippant remark casting our industry into oblivion; this is a refence to an empire that has been built worldwide. What a disgrace (and breathe). Once I recovered from my rant, a different and rather uncomfortable thought process began. Is that really how we are perceived? After all this progress, could it be that we are such a latent force than no-one outside the fascio actually understands? Painful as it is, maybe we have to take that on the chin. You will have been at family gatherings and tried to explain what you do to a disinterested in-law before giving up after three attempts something like this: “Oh, so you own the NEC?” “No, it’s more-” “Oh, you build all the stands?” “No, not quite, it’s-” “Oh, you exhibit at all the events?” “Never mind, how is the property market?” This is still reality, unfortunately, despite the enormous growth and success of exhibitions over the last three decades. No-one takes us seriously, and that’s becoming too frustrating to ignore. Our industry is full of colour and life and excitingly competitive but, for this quest, we are all in it together. All the while we stay under the radar, we attract less talent, financing is harder to achieve, there are less buyers in the know, the government local and national give us obstacles rather support, the national media ignores us or worse, demesnes what we do etc. It’s our job as a collective to raise the profile of everything that we are so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The exhibition industry landscape is competitive, but we learn so much from each other hence thee amazing growth in the last 20 years in particular. We are a club but a clique. Stronger together and it is time to let the world in and raise our heads above the parapet. The exhibition industry is a force to be reckoned with and it’s time to show our muscle. But how? Should that be our job as your media? Maybe, but we need your help. Here’s my suggestion. I’m starting a group on LinkedIn – entitled ‘Value of Exhibitions’ – as part of what must be a renewed drive to get the exhibition industry’s profile recognised in an appropriate fashion and established once and for all. That’s our target, so please join in and add your weight and knowledge. When the last recession hit a presidential decree wrote off incentive business as corporate jollies, but the meetings industry rallied with the Meetings Means Business campaign which has had huge success; we can mirror that in the exhibitions industry. Corporate jamborees, jollies? Dear me, it’s time to show that these kind of labels are way behind the ‘times’…as it were! exhibitionnews.co.uk | February 2019 65