Out of the cloud

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Having been at the helm of the London Book Fair (LBF) for the past 10 years, Reed Exhibitions’ group exhibition director Alistair Burtenshaw has had to contend with almost every problem the event could throw at him.  But last year the drama wasn’t consigned to the pages and the agents squabbling over international rights, and it certainly wasn’t fiction. The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the subsequent ash cloud paralysed air routes and grounded flights to the UK, depriving the event of an estimated 20 per cent of its overseas visitors. As soon as the LBF team became aware of the travel disruptions, Reed worked with outfits including VisitBritain to make sure people were able to get to the event, and for those unable to make the trip by means other than flying, contingency measures were put in place.  Reed’s customer service team contacted international exhibitors to ascertain the need for temporary stand staff, and although the weekend events took place as planned, people who were unable to attend could nominate someone to replace them or receive a digital copy of the notes.  Ultimately the exhibition did suffer. Smaller shows, such as Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden became home to many of the right discussions originally scheduled to take place in London. “Many people missed the fair in London,” said international sales manager at the Göteborg Book Fair, Ewa Bråthe. “As a result, we noticed a rise in interest, especially in the rights section.” Among the London event’s notable personality losses was former PM Tony Blair, who had to read his memoirs not to the London audience but to himself, stranded in the Middle East. ExhibitingOnce the dust had settled, Reed began a campaign to ensure the London show was never far from people’s minds, through one method it understands the value of only too well: Exhibiting at international events. Much of the organiser’s marketing spend for LBF went on trips to other international events to keep the London event’s visibility high. After all, who understands the importance of face-to-face representation better than an exhibition organiser? LBF regularly exhibits all around the world, at the Beijing International Book Fair and shows in Bologna and Frankfurt.  “We knew quite a lot of people who didn’t make it to London for the 2010 event would go to our sister event, BookExpo America, which took place in New York six weeks later. So we took a stand there,” said Burtenshaw. LBF’s US outing was followed by trips to Brazil, Turkey and Russia, the international focus for the 2011 event. “A lot of our marketing spend went into these overseas trips,” Burtenshaw continued. “They helped us to reach and engage international audiences, but we’ve tried to engage our customers all year round online too, through the website and by email.” Close to homeThe 2011 LBF will be held at Earls Court from 11 to 13 April. The show’s setting – London – provides strong currency for everyone in the publishing business, and ensures the credibility of the event’s education programme. “The UK has a really strong reputation for the creative industries, particularly in the publishing sector,” Burtenshaw said. “Last year’s LBF featured 230 seminars and events.”LBF is renowned above all else for its large rights section, an area of 575 tables full of literary agents negotiating over the right to publish books in their home markets.HarperCollins is one of the foremost publishers exhibiting at the event in 2011 and is a long-time attendee at the fair. The company’s group rights director Lucy Vanderbilt said she’s looking forward to the 2011 event after the disappointment of last year.“[LBF] is a great opportunity to catch up with our international customers, and for them to hear about and see our new publications as well as talk about ongoing business,” she said. “Of course we were all disappointed last year, but it seems people are even more determined to get to London this year and to have the face-to-face meetings; our schedules are already filling up with two months still to go.”Let’s hope Mother Nature stays away from LBF this time. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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