Exhibition News January 2018 - Page 29

experience I t was a chilly December day when EN arrived at K West hotel in West London for the latest in our EN Roundtable series. We sat down with Ed Wyre, events director at MA Exhibitions, Emma Nicholls, marketing manager at Broden Media, Simon Farnfi eld, director at Summer Road Events and sales director at Mash Media, and Piarvé Wetshi, marketing executive at UBM, for a discussion on the visitor experience, and how organisers can work to improve and diversify their offering for attendees. The fi rst subject up for discussion: who is ultimately responsible for the experience attendees have at a show? “I think it’s the whole organisation,” argues Nicholls. “Certainly with our event [The Emergency Services Show], we fi nd it increasingly hard to get police buyers to the show, and so we work with the sales team to get more police-specifi c kit at the show. “It’s a different offering, our show, because we cover so many sectors: fi re, ambulance, mountain rescue, public safety, emergency planning. It’s about working with the sales team to make sure there is something for every visitor while they’re there.” You’ve got to be really knowledgeable and know the market, agrees Wyre. “I wholeheartedly agree that it’s everyone’s responsibility within the team,” he tells the group. “Whether you are event management or content or marketing or sales, everybody needs to have a good understanding of that audience and therefore what’s appropriate for the visitor in terms of attracting them to the show. “And the sales guys have to be able to convey that to clients for them to then be able to understand – especially in the more competitive markets that we operate in – why they should come to your show.” MA Exhibitions is the exhibitions arm of publisher Mark Allen Group, and Wyre argues that the publishing side of the business also needs to intrinsically understand the visitor and their experience at a show. “It goes beyond the events team in a company such as ours,” he explains. “If you’re a stand-alone events company it’s about working with supporting organisations and media partners.” Partners, agrees Farnfi eld, are absolutely crucial to the visitor experience and for providing content. “With [Mash Media event] International Confex we’re the same,” he explains. “We’re very intrinsically linked with Conference News and EN and all those editors are very important in terms of creating the right type of platforms for the buyers and visitors to be pulled into that show, which then provides value to the exhibitors.” Wetshi adds: “At UBM we have our design portfolios, and the way that they run their shows is interesting, because they really look at what’s happening on a social level. Then we have our more traditional industries where we focus on what the industry wants. “Looking at how B2C shows might work compared to B2B, I fi nd there’s a lot of crossover. For example, at [UBM’s hotel design event] Sleep, they decided to look at what’s happening on a social level and how is that affecting the rest of the industry. If it’s a small piece that’s being done at the show then – although it’s not directly related to maybe sales or an exhibitor – it’s something that makes people think. It’s more on the basis aesthetics and bringing in those conversations.” It’s important, continues Wetshi, to looks at what’s happening in the wider world that affects the industry you serve as an organiser. At IFSEC Inte rnational, UBM’s fi re and security exhibition, for example, it was important to tackle the controversial topic of Grenfell in content at the show. “What is happening in society that is affecting our exhibitors and our visitors?” she says. “It’s about creating a space that’s asking those questions. A lot of our visitors might come to our show and we don’t want them to think it’s the same thing every year. We’ve thought about what is happening in the industry and these are the conversations that the show is speaking about.” You need to empower the whole team to come up with ideas, agrees Wyre. “You may have a marketing executive or sales director come up with an idea that is absolutely fi tting,” he explains. “Editorial teams are going to be in the market every day and hear certain things, the sales team is going to be in the market and hear things. The design team might have amazing ideas, but it might not be appropriate. You need to manage that balance. “Empowering the team to come up with ideas will help you keep the show at the forefront of that market.” 365 days “What happens after the show? A lot of visitors come to the show but they need to be engaged throughout the year,” comments Wetshi. “Although we have content platforms, so does everyone else, so how do we make our content platform stand out? What micro events or seminars sessions can we have throughout the year?” There’s a lot of pressure on organisers, adds EN, to be thought leaders. “It’s interesting on our show,” says Nicholls. “We have about 18- 20 per cent of our visitors are paramedics. I’d say 99 per cent of them have to take leave to come to the show. They come in their own time, which is unusual for a trade show. We have to make it worth their while.” Do CPD sessions, asks EN, make it easier for visitors to justify attending a show to their managers etc.? “We certainly did research on having our CPD sessions for the fi rst time this year,” comments Nicholls. “About 60 per cent said they wouldn’t have attended had they not been. We certainly saw an uplift in people attending the sessions.” It varies across sectors, adds Wyre, with some fi nding CPD sessions invaluable for professional development. “It’s a major incentive for people to attend,” he explains. “People are time poor, it’s about justifying that time out of the offi ce. But you’ve got to understand your audience. For example, with the continued ➞ Dental Showcase there is a driver for CPD in that, but exhibitionnews.co.uk | January 2018 29