Show and Tell

Exhibitions & Trade Fairs

But the exhibitions industry remains in good heart and demand from both of its interest groups – exhibitors and visitors – remains robust and is even increasing, according to Exhibitions & Trade Fairs Ltd (ETF), which organises trade exhibitions and consumer events across a diverse range of industries.

In the automotive sector, for example, ETF runs the National 4×4 & Outdoors Show, RACV Motorclassica and Sydney Motorcycle & Scooter Show; Auspack Plus is a leading international exhibition of packaging, processing, and plastics machinery, materials and associated technology for packaging and allied processing and handling industries in the Australasian region; Landscape Australia Expo takes place in Brisbane and Melbourne; and the Australian Business Events Expo is a two-day trade show that brings together buyers and sellers who provide products, people, destinations and services that are integral to delivering business events and conferences held around Australia.

Beyond these shores, ETF is responsible for organising the prestigious LNG Conference and Exhibition series which began in 1968 and is now a major international forum for the LNG industry. Held every three years, this event alternates between LNG buyer and seller nations (its next appearance is in 2017 in Houston in the US). And there is World Gas, the IGU’s peripatetic combination of conference and exhibition which took place last year in Kuala Lumpur and will next appear in Paris in 2015.

Stephen Dallimore is an event manager at ETF and he explains that the secret of continuing success is to ensure shows remain relevant and that they continue to move with the times. To this end, ETF has offices in Sydney and Melbourne as well as the Gold Coast and the company is a part of Staging Connections Group (see Business in Focus, May 2012), an international event services company providing event and staging services in Asia Pacific.

The relationship between a show organiser and a client (especially a global one such as the International Gas Union) is complex; one successful staging of a show leads to another and as long as ETF meets the client’s needs, the relationship will prosper as it becomes advantageous for the client to remain with ETF (which now assumes greater knowledge of the industry concerned and its players with each event) as the event moves around the world. ETF must re-tender each time but the delivery of successful shows and exceeding expectations, Stephen says, “creates trust and confidence in us.”

In that context, putting on a major exhibition and conference in Paris is really no different than doing it in Perth, he explains. “We build relationships, and importantly trust, with clients around the world.” If ETF delivers what it promises to the client – “and in most cases we over-deliver,” says Stephen – there is no reason for the client to look elsewhere.

First, it is important to have a clear understanding of what is happening in the industry the company is representing as an organiser – to build relationships with the industry’s peak body and with those booking stand space and then to maintain communication. “For me personally, it’s about listening to everything they have to say,” Stephen says. “They want the show to do well and they are the best source of information.”

A trade show should always be innovative and fresh; that way, the exhibitor will want to come back and you will bring in new visitors. Most industries have (or possibly suffer from) a plethora of shows each year; the secret, says Stephen, is to stand out as the one that is most responsive to the ever-changing needs of those in that industry. In one recent trade show example, ETF as an organiser actually got together with a competitor show promoter and agreed to co-locate their shows. Previously there were two competing exhibitions and the industry was showing signs of not being able to afford it, so putting two complementary events together made the combined event a ‘must-see’ for the whole industry and it was a big success, made even more cost-effective for exhibitor and visitor alike because of the communication and forward thinking.

ETF’s portfolio is approximately evenly split between consumer shows and trade fairs. Because of Australia’s geography, the former tend to be regional or city-based and several of them are held in multiple cities each year; others move around, like many of their trade equivalents, choosing a different city each year. Australia is quite well served for quality venues, says Stephen, who points to the large amounts being spent on improving facilities in (eg) Sydney’s convention centre as an encouraging sign.

“Because of its size, it’s not possible to just have one show in the middle of Australia,” he says. It’s not like the UK, for example, where the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham is central enough to serve attendees from as ‘far’ away as Scotland. Current developments in Adelaide and Perth, for example, are “fantastic because they create more opportunities for event organisers to bring shows over to those areas with better facilities to host the events.” Stephen also makes the point that Australian event facilities are generally better located than many abroad – generally being central in a major city rather than at a dusty industrial site outside town. That’s better for all parties attending a show and also for the community hosting it.

It is important, too, to ease the process for the exhibitor. First time buyers of show space often find the experience of setting up and staffing a stand a daunting experience and even companies that regularly go to shows can either become blasé or fail to concentrate their resources, but Stephen agrees it is vital for all exhibitors to plan to maximise their not inconsiderable investment. The stand itself – space and whatever you choose to put on it – is obviously vital and should be enticing enough to attract showgoers but not so glitzy as to put them off walking in. Staff should be chosen according to their ability to interact with the showgoers in the venue, not just pulled in from the other side of the world for a week’s ‘jolly’.

The stand itself costs approximately a third of the total of exhibiting at a trade show and ETF has a comprehensive “owner’s handbook” that guides exhibitors toward maximising this investment in their business. As Stephen points out, ETF would much rather build a lasting relationship with its exhibitors.

Classic car shows are huge in the US and UK and “it seemed an idea we could work from because that scene is very big over here too.” There is also a large interest around Asia and Australia could serve as a centre for that, says Stephen. Motorclassica was, accordingly, developed with another interested party and the RACV came aboard having seen the success of the first show. This exhibition is staged at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building (on Carlton Gardens) which, as Stephen points out, is a superb aesthetic match for the quality classic cars displayed within (a highlight of the show is a Concours d’Elegance). The fourth incarnation of this show is scheduled for October 24-27.

Stephen is also point man for the award-winning ENTECH CONNECT & ENTECH, a biennial trade show for the entertainment, live events and corporate installation sectors. Exhibitors at this show display the latest professional audio, audio-visual, lighting and integration and staging equipment. Australia’s longest running show of its kind, Entech consistently attracts more than 4,700 visitors looking for the latest in technology and innovation for their industry. Entech (next appearance: July 23-25, 2013) co-locates with SMPTE (a broadcast-industry show) at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, under the banner of the Australian Entertainment Technology Week, creating one major trade show that provides visitors and exhibitors with a significant multi-platform event.

An innovation for the 2013 event will be an Australian Manufacturing Hall, showcasing the considerable number of locally based companies manufacturing related equipment and providing high level engineering within the national and international market place. “It will promote these capabilities that we have here to visitors from the Middle East and Asia who may not be so aware of what we have here,” explains Stephen.

So don’t write off the exhibition, because neither recessions nor the NBN will render it an endangered species. Instead, get fit and buy some comfortable shoes, because as a trade or consumer visitor, you’re likely to be pounding the aisles for the foreseeable future!

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:33 PM AEDT