After teaming up with Prysm Group to run Accountex 2016, Diversified Communications has taken the reins for this year’s show.
It’s always a good sign if you can hear a show before you can see it, and this is certainly the case as EN pops in past Accountex to chat with event director Zoe Lacey-Cooper.
The packed theatres and busy aisles hint that the show is as popular as ever with the UK’s accountancy professionals, after being acquired by Diversified Communications from Prysm Group in Summer 2015.
In an unusual turn of events, the transition period between the two organisers involved them working collaboratively, for one year only, on the 2016 show at ExCeL London.
“Working with a competitor on a show is the most unique thing I’ve ever done,” says Lacey-Cooper. “The team I worked with were fantastic even though it was for a short amount of time, as we were all working on the same team to create a great show. And my predecessor from Prysm (Tom King) said he felt like part of the Diversified team last year on site, and I felt the same with their team too.”
This year, the show is firmly in the hands of Diversified, who immediately set to work looking for new ways to develop the show.
“After the transition period with Prysm, we’ve had 100 per cent control of the show this year,” explains Lacey-Cooper. “After speaking with the regular exhibitors and supporters of the show, we established that the show was pretty perfect the way it was! We just needed a few little tweaks to develop the floor plan, the features and create bigger theatres.”
One of the first big tasks was managing the intensive programme of over 180 speakers in 14 different themed theatres.
“I created a steering committee, which meant that we had an advisory board to assist me in shaping the content,” continues Lacey-Cooper. “It’s CPD pointed, so we have to have some management. That gave us the opportunity to be more selective with the speakers, and it also meant we could bring in some really big keynotes.”
Along with a change in the content available to visitors at the show, Lacey-Cooper also oversaw a big change in how the show looked.
“We’ve put a lot of money in making the entrance look better as we reduced the entrances from two to just the one main entrance into the show,” she tells EN. “We’ve invested in black shell schemes instead of white, the theatres are more open, bigger and better. Before all the theatres were shell schemed in, whereas now they are open and draped. We plan to continue to investing money next year to try and take the show to the next level.”
Part of that investment was also felt in the marketing team, which had two full-time marketers working on promoting the show to a wider audience of potential visitors.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Preparations for the 2017 show hit a slight snag when, just two weeks before the show, Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election.
“We had an entire theatre that HMRC were running themselves,” explains Lacey-Cooper. “They put all the content together themselves, and were very excited about the opportunity.”
The upcoming pre-election guidance meant that HMRC had to stop all external speaking arrangements, and ultimately had to withdraw from the show.
“I had 12 hours to turn around a whole two-day theatre with 13 speakers, which was a challenge but lots of fun!” continues Lacey-Cooper. “But we had popular speakers who could do repeat sessions, so it wasn’t too bad in the end.”
As if taking over a new show wasn’t enough, Lacey-Cooper and her colleagues have also launched Accountex Summit North this month, taking place in Manchester in 2018.
The new event will be a free-to-attend summit and conference, with exhibitors each taking a pre-built pods, rather than a uniquely designed stand.
“The big vendors do that at their own summits, and it’s a business model that works really well,” explains Lacey-Cooper. “The feedback I’ve got was that we at Diversified were the best people to do it. I think if we didn’t do it then there would be other people out there who would. We looked at it and thought, if we don’t do it now, we’ll miss it.”
When it comes to the long term future of the show, Lacey-Cooper intends to continue focussing on putting on high quality content and improving the visitor experience. Accountex 2017 also brought in a new focus on technology and startups, something that Lacey-Cooper is particularly excited by.
“We’ve created a start-up zone, because technology is growing and there are new companies popping up all over the place,” she explains. “We want to give them the opportunity to have a platform, in the hope that when they get big we’ll be there and still be working with them!
“Everyone sees Accountex as an accounting show, but primarily it is all about technology, and that’s what excites me. I’ve worked in ten different industry sectors but the technology side is particularly interesting.”
Whatever the future holds for the show, the combination of new layout, stands and theatres – along with industry leading content – add up to something pretty special.