Lessons to be learned

Julian Agostini, Mash Media MD and founder of the Industry Expansion Initiative, says educators need education. A year on from the formation of the Industry Expansion Initiative (IEI), I gathered together some of the UK’s leading exhibition figures to map the way forward. As you all know, the IEI was established with a view to promoting our industry as a whole, for the greater good. This means that everyone (organisers, venues, suppliers) has a vested interest, and we need to work together, pooling our resources and resourcefulness. That is easier said than done, especially when you are trying to get competitors to share sensitive business information. I still believe that the industry would be better off and stronger if we worked closer together, and the sharing of visitor data is a prime example. One of my more familiar soundbites is that, logically, it is easier to get someone who already goes to shows to attend another one rather than trying to convert a non-believer. So far, organisers aren’t convinced that the benefits outweigh any negatives. However, the assembled IEI supporters did reach a form of consensus during our latest meeting of minds, and that referred to academia. I have made it my mission in the past 12 months to attend as many universities as possible, to talk to event management students. This was enlightening, but not in a wholly positive way. It would appear that most of these bright young things all have their sights firmly set on the sexy world of music festivals and Olympic opening ceremonies. For a 21-year-old, that’s a reasonable aspiration, but what concerned me was that exhibitions hardly seemed to get a mention on the syllabus, and were therefore not part of the students’ plans. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but Olympic ceremonies come around once in a lifetime, while Glastonbury is an annual event. You can attend an exhibition in the UK every single day of the year (barring December 25th and other such distractions, but we even have exhibitions for that). So what’s the problem? Is it a matter of perceptions? Exhibitions are attended by 13 million people in the UK each year, but when was the last time you read a glowing feature about them in the popular press? Raising the profile of the industry within the media has to be the way forward. It’s all well and good speaking to a room of 30 students in some far-flung college, but you’re preaching to the (almost) converted. Get the media on your side and you get more awareness of exhibitions and more visitors. That will naturally attract more entrepreneurs, creating new shows and generating more business for everyone.This is the Industry Expansion Initiative, and rather than picking a few low-hanging fruit, we want to plant new orchards.The IEI is supported by the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Perton Signs, Moyne Exhibitions, Earls Court and Olympia Venues, Compass Group, ASP and Peterborough Arena. If you’d like to know more about the IEI or want to support it, please email: jagostini@mashmedia.net This was first published in the August edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net

Julian Agostini
Posted by Julian Agostini
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