Footing the bill

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The NEC’s recent Client Day event presented EN with an ideal opportunity to ask a panel of organisers and service providers who they think has paid most dearly for the impact the recession has had on our industry. More to the point, are these cuts being recouped and if not, does anyone harbour any resentment? The terms of the event meant that all opinion was given off-record However, the panel comprised individuals from Early Action Group, Haymarket, Upper Street Events, Expo Management, Vos Media, Melville, Quartz Publishing, Pioneer Events, William Reed Exhibitions, Centaur Media and Brintex. In many ways, the panel claimed, the recession has helped bring the industry closer together. Strong partnerships and transparency were key to survival. Instead, it was the relationship between organisers and exhibitors that buckled under the weight of an unsteady economy. “The recession meant that across our sectors the larger players in the market knew they were crucial to our show, and without them it was extremely challenging to get the support needed to stage a quality exhibition,” said one disadvantaged panellist. “This itself is fuelling resentment because now more than ever, our objective is to try and remind exhibitors - both large and small - of the benefits of exhibitions against other forms of marketing.” After all, the exhibitors have been up against the wall with the rest. “We have seen an increase in the amount of bad debt from exhibitors, yet we have not demanded cuts from contractors, so are paying the same rates. I believe that the organiser is bearing the brunt of the bill for the recession.” “This has become a survival game for some organisers and we have found that a very open, honest approach has avoided a great deal of resentment,” said another panellist, adding that where there is still a sense of resentment, it probably rests between an organiser and major exhibitors. While many point the finger of blame for resentment at venues, organisers and suppliers, the simple fact is that large exhibitions - such as the Motor Show - have to carry the industry with them or face collapse. Working together, the venue and organiser can ensure the longevity of the larger shows, but it must be a partnership and not a ‘them and us’ attitude, one participant claimed. “The pressure on organisers from exhibitors regarding costs is immense and it is something we have little or no control over,” said another somewhat browbeaten panellist, pointing out that exhibitors don't understand this, instead choosing to believe that organisers “are in cahoots with the contractors and venues”. Nonetheless, there are certain areas in which this industry can ensure there are no unnecessary charges levied that put exhibitors’ backs up. These could include car parking costs, high fees for internet connections and the hire of electrical equipment such as kettles, fridges and so on. “While we are looking to tighten costs on core areas, this does not reflect the fact we are taking a commercial risk in using any savings and indeed, additional budget to enhance our show content,” a panellist added.
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