25-Jul-11by Annie Byrne
The venue you choose for your exhibition can have a significant bearing on the types of visitors that end up on the show floor. But are there other ways a venue can influence your event’s short and long-term future? Below are some industry insights. Can a venue make or break your show?
Exhibition director Brintex
Can the “wrong” venue kill a show? Yes, but the organiser is largely guilty for choosing it. Can the “right” venue make a show? Yes, but the venue has to work with the organiser to deliver it.
In order to succeed, both events and venues should behave as brands. I learned this lesson the hard way with a show I helped launched for Emap. We launched at the then London Arena in 1996, moved to Olympia six months later, then grew to fill Earls Court 1 for some years. We adhered rigidly to our brand values in marketing and presentation until – with industry support – a decision was made to move alongside the now successful fashion trade show Pure London.
We then combined and moved all our fashion events to Excel London. At that time I believe this was the largest event the new venue had hosted and as it happened, Excel’s birth pangs coincided with our show. The industry hated it and for them, the “corporate” environment was anathema.
Excel is a fantastic venue and Brintex runs one of the world’s biggest wine trade fairs at the venue each May, it just didn’t resonate with this sector.
With flexibility, venues really can help to develop, refresh or change the event offer to meet new demands. In 1996 the London Arena let Emap install Victorian baths in the hall to demonstrate Levi’s Shrink to Fit Jeans.
Last year, Bristol City Council smoothed the way for an unknown group of sportsmen to demonstrate Stand Up Paddle on the working harbour as part of Brintex’s boardsports show launch HUB, and in April the Business Design Centre worked with Brintex and Hampshire Fire and Paramedics to secure approval to abseil from the rafters with a rescue dog for show demos. All these proposals were unusual, made a huge difference to the show experience and were immeasurably easier to secure with the support of venue staff and owners.
Venue sales director The NEC Group
While the venue has the ability to make show a success (or not), so does everyone involved: From the venue through to the organiser, contractors and even exhibitors, each plays their part in the bigger picture.
What a venue can do is add significant value by developing real market understanding and by working in partnership with exhibition organisers. Venues are no longer just about hiring out the space and within our team at The NEC we harbour a huge amount of expertise that can be shared with organisers to get the best out of an event.
For example, our in-house market research team Insight works independently and in partnership with organisers to explore new markets and help generate show opportunities.
As we see events shift from being product showcases through to those that are product-led but content driven, there is an increasing need for content rich events.
Insight plays a key role in helping to develop and identify such content. We also actively support organisers with other marketing services such as design, digital and media.
The right venue, in the right location, with the right reach and accessibility also has to be of value. That can clearly be seen when you look at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show, which came to The NEC last year. The location and flexibility of estate significantly contributed to it being the best show in the event’s history. According to the organiser, 92 per cent of exhibitors rated the 2010 show either “excellent” or “good”.
We are well aware that from an outsider’s point of view, there isn’t a clear distinction between venue and organiser. We work very hard to ensure the customer has a positive experience at our venue, which we know reflects on the show’s brand.
For this industry to grow, develop and further evolve we need to adopt a more integrated approach to improve our customers’ experience. We can only achieve this by developing that venue and organiser relationship.
Head of marketingICHF Events
The venue remains vital in fulfilling the needs of the target audience, exhibitors and, of course, us as organisers. We see the two brands, ICHF and the venue, working alongside each other. A well-known venue with a good reputation therefore reflects positively on our shows and, from a practical perspective, means people know where they are going and what to expect.
In terms of other practicalities, good transport options via road and rail are essential. For trade shows, the venue also needs to be easily accessible by air with good links from the airport. Many of our visitors drive to the shows so plenty of well-organised and managed parking is important. It also goes without saying accessibility for visitors with disabilities is essential.
For all those involved, friendly and helpful venue staff make a huge difference to the overall experience. The impact of this should not be underestimated. A good, reasonably priced food offering is also something we look for in a venue. It may sound like a small point, but often it’s the little things that make a difference.
As we move forward, venues will continue to play an integral role in all our events. One thing that’s key for us is ensuring we establish and maintain a good working relationship with all our venues because a successful event relies on good teamwork.
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