EXHIBITION NEWS May 2017 - Page 43

Planning ahead From a recession start-up to award-winning tech company, it’s the story of Showplans “W e set up Showplans at probably the worst time you could set up a business – at the start of the recession,” laughs Adam Jones. Jones and his co-founder Richard Dove set up Showplans in 2009 after the company they both worked for went under. Faced with the choice of looking for new jobs or striking out on their own, they chose the latter. Starting the business with only £1,000 in the bank, Jones sold his car and anything else that could potentially cost money to give Showplans the best chance of getting off the ground. From these humble beginnings, they grew into a successful tech company, winning Event Tech of the Year at the 2017 EN Awards in March. They were lucky in that many of their old customers – including the likes of William Reed, Media 10 and the British Marine Boat Shows – stuck with them as they began to build their business. “They took a huge risk on two guys in their twenties, trying to run a business with no past experience,” refl ects Jones. “They’ve held strong with us all the way through this journey, I have a lot of respect for them.” The Showplans mission statement is to provide clients with everything they need to create and manage an optimised event fl oorplan, which started with Jones and Dove taking what they had learned at their previous company and improving. “We took it as an opportunity to look beyond what we were doing and start building pieces of software that we knew were good ideas, that had been blocked by our previous company, explains Jones. “There wasn’t necessarily a gap in the market, but there was a better way of doing what we were doing. “What we were traditionally doing was very manual; an organiser would come to us and ask us to make a change to the fl oorplan and we would make it and send it back. “That process was just too slow. No matter how good we were we couldn’t keep up. We started wondering how we could create something to enable an organiser to log into the system and make changes themselves.” Customers using the Showplans software can take one of two routes: either they can upload a pre-existing fl oorplan into the system or they can come to the company for help constructing an optimal fl oorplan for their show. “They can tell us what they want to achieve with their fl oor plan, what their sales targets are, what kind of stands they want, how many features they want, and then we’ll take that information and design the best possible fl oor plan that we can for them,” explains Jones. While optimal show layouts inevitably vary from show to show, especially if you work on shows with outdoor elements such as the Southampton Boat Show (“sometimes the local council might install a park bench in the middle of a stand”), there are some tips and tricks Jones uses to subtly improve the experience for visitors and exhibitors. “What we try and do is optimise the walking through the door experience, creating that ‘wow factor’ at the entrance is very important,” he tells EN . “Some very simple tactics we have are: as soon as you walk through the door there should be a wide long aisle, so that you can see the size of the event. “And there should be something at the far end of the aisle that screams out what kind of event you’re at.” Placement of feature, says Jones, is another hugely important factor for organisers to consider. “If you put all of your features at the front of the show then you’re not drawing people to the back of the event,” he explains. “We won’t put a feature on the edge of the show, because by doing that you’re losing a desirable area. If you can put a feature in the middle of stands then the 360 degrees around that space is desirable, because every exhibitor wants to be next to a feature. “When I’m booking a stand as an exhibitor I want to be next to these places because they have high footfall, and they’re areas where visitors will stop for a period of time and naturally look around to see what’s there. That’s the kind of thing that helps a sales team sell spaces; exhibitors aren’t going to pay a premium unless there’s a reason to pay a premium.” The company’s success clearly registered within the industry, as it was acquired by global brand experience provider Freeman at the end of 2016. “We were looking at ways of proving a solution for a client, which would create a more seamless approach to selling and the improve exhibitor experience,