29th March 2007

Ten things I didn’t know five years ago

A bit of self indulgence this month. TSNN editor, John Spain, has now spent five years editing events industry publications. Here he presents 10 unashamed observations about the industry based on half a decade in the chair.

1 There is absolutely no doubt that the sense of excitement one gets at a busy, buzzing exhibition is second to none. Exhibitions clearly present an amazing opportunity for suppliers and buyers to get ‘up front and personal’.

2 Let’s stop beating ourselves up about visitor numbers. Viewing figures for TV programmes have collapsed over the last 30 years, the advent of cable and satellite choices meaning that the audience is spread far wider than ever before. TV companies don’t throw their hands up in horror, they simply get on with the job of making their products as popular as possible. Look at the number of shows that continue to see a rise in their visitor numbers, what are they doing that others aren’t

3 I’m still not sure about the three industry sectors being brought together under one umbrella organisation. It makes perfect sense in so many areas but the fact remains that no amount of cross-industry dialogue will prevent a row between a venue, organiser and contractor going to court if the argument is serious enough.

4 Why do we always worry about location? Surely you could run an event anywhere if it were packed with relevant contact and really stimulated something in the audience’s thought processes? Look at the growth in consumer shows where many of the audience have set of in the wee small hours to be there. How we get the same reaction from B2B visitors is a major task

5 Exhibitor training is a crucial component of the exhibition process and congratulations go to the organisers who continue to develop this service for their clients.

6 Having said that, there comes a point where there’s no point in flogging a dead horse. If a firm doesn’t want to learn then you should maybe just let them get on with it. Or, are there many organisers out there who have the courage to say no to people who won’t do it?

7 We really have to smarten up our act in terms of how we market ourselves. This industry gets the PR it wants to pay for. Most PR firms in the outside world woudn’t bother getting out of bed for the sort of fees we want to pay.

8 Talking to government is an important aspect of telling the wider world about the value of live events. However, the fact remains that so many people genuinely don’t know anything about what we do. Could we not spend the money on poster campaign in the tube and in major city centres?

9 Everyone’s suddenly in the event, not exhibition industry. We’ve spent years trying to tell people about exhibitions only for us to dispense with the term. I reckon we lose it at our peril.

10 Overall, despite the odd grip, this is a fantastic business to be involved with and if in some way TSNN and other publications have helped it along in some way I would be delighted. I’m looking forward to the next five years