Fishing with dynamite

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Mark Jones at Touch2View, the suppliers of ‘giant iPads’ for displays, provided a quote that is sure to adorn flyers for next year’s Event Production Show (EPS). “We notched up a huge success with visitors literally clamouring to check out the capabilities,” said Jones. “It was ‘like fishing with dynamite’ one of the sales guys on our stand said. We ended up with over 200 leads in two days and 20 leads chasing us hard immediately after the event.” Caroline Littler from the award-winning Wow!Grass was just as effusive. “We had a great response at the Event Production Show,” she said. “It was the first time we had exhibited at the show and we were really impressed not just by the number but also the quality of the visitors. “There was a great atmosphere over the two days – the place was really buzzing. The keynote speakers were a big draw, and combined with the learning opportunities in the seminars plus the quality of the exhibitors, we believe Mash Media got the formula just right to get the best people through the door.” This article comes with a disclaimer: The Event Production Show 2013 was organised by Mash Media, the publisher of Exhibition News. Mash Media Group acquired the Event Production Show (EPS) from Ocean Media Group last year in a deal which also included the Event Production Awards, respected event industry title Access All Areas, and The White Book. The exhibition has been the annual meeting place for everyone involved in delivering events for 20 years but, as with so many long-standing shows, it was starting to show signs of flagging fortunes – which now seem to have been revived. Visitor numbers at the 2013 show were up by 14 per cent and more than half of exhibitors pledged to rebook for next year.
A total of 3,332 unique visitors walked through the doors over two days, compared with 2,924 in 2012 (this figure included visitors to the co-located UK Venue Show). Held on 5-6 February, timing was a crucial role in the success of the show, coming at the start of the year and acting as a focal point for the industry. Located in Olympia’s National Hall, visitors also commented that the show benefited from the new space. The good news for Exhibition News was the fact that those punters were still coming through the doors close to closing time, as we were hosting a panel discussion in the graveyard shift. Titled ‘How to make your exhibition an event – maximising the visitor experience’, we were pleasantly surprised by the crowd that turned up to hear EN editor Scott Birch host the discussion on the main stage. Paul MacDonald (Marketing Week Live), David Freeman (Mayridge), Andy Gibb (Melville GES) and Austen Hawkins (F2F Events) made up the panel, with a lively discussion on how both organisers and exhibitors can improve the success of a show, measure that success and, more obtusely, what constitutes ‘success’. You can read more of the panel’s views on page 21. We had big, muddy shoes to fill on the main stage, following on from festival royalty Michael Eavis on day one. The Glastonbury guru was followed by a debate on the future of festivals and partnership in practice with panelists John Probyn from Live Nation, Martin Green from LOCOG and Rob Da Bank from Bestival. The seminar programme was a key element of EPS and aside from the main stage there was also a self-contained Sessions Arena in the centre of the hall, covering everything from hybrid meetings to a talk from Kim Gavin, artistic director of the Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies.With Glastonbury and the Olympics well represented, the names couldn’t have got any bigger in terms of the events industry. Exhibition News was also busy throughout the show, tasked with judging the two Best Stands (out of 120) for the Event Production Awards. Working alongside ESSA director Chris Skeith, we judged the best shell and best space stands. To be fair, this was not an easy task. While some stands were eye-catching and the products looked good, the engagement of staff on the stands was poor. Too often, we would be attracted to a stand only to be put off by staff eating, engrossed in their mobile phones, or generally not being very energised about their product. This was a topic of debate in our panel discussions, with Freeman especially saying that it was down to the exhibitors to make more effort on their stands. Hawkins outlined some proactive measures he employs, even down to manning stands of some disgruntled exhibitors to demonstrate where they are going wrong. MacDonald also suggested that it was not only the organisers’ responsibility to make sure exhibitors were selling themselves properly but also suggested the organiser could get involved in chasing sales leads generated at their shows. There were of course exceptions, with many exhibitors selling themselves in style. Touch2View’s Jones seduced us to engage with some clever introductory banter – the product itself was brilliant, engaging and simple to use. The lady at the Routemaster Hire stand knew her product inside out, could quote prices and also clearly had a passion for her product. However, our two stand winners were Wow!Grass and Ideas Box. You find it takes something simple to grab your attention. In the case of Wow! Grass this did not depend solely on visuals. There are, as we all learn from an early age, five senses, and this turfing company tickled two of them brilliantly. The smell of fresh grass lured us across the exhibition hall, while touch (either standing on the grass or touching the turfed walls and tables) was also impossible to resist. No wonder the stand enjoyed a steady stream of curious visitors for the duration of the show. Add in the friendliness of informed staff and you have a solid gold winner. Another stand display causing a stir was the traditional tricycles from Ideas Box. What began as a company supplying chocolate fountains a few years ago has now developed into a selection of bespoke cycles offering premium, mobile food and drink solutions – from popcorn to Pimm’s. While visitors were tucking into the retro pick and mix sweets, managers in straw boaters were running through the slick sales pitch. We were impressed with the way the company not only looks and feels high-end, but also the product innovation and development. On this evidence, the events industry in general is in rude health. There was a palpable buzz around the show from start to finish, visitor numbers were up, and exhibitors were reporting strong business leads. When it comes to turning your exhibition into an event, the subject of our panel discussion, clearly there were still lessons to be learned on the exhibitor side in terms of visitor engagement and interaction – something we will addressing more in the pages of Exhibition News. This was first published in the March edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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