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22 . . February 2012INTERNATIONAL CONFEX Confex conversationConfex Director Jonny Sullens answers some questions on his strategic vision for the showFor the fi rst time in many years we have a minister at International Confex 2012. Does this herald a new successful effort in the industry's attempts to lobby Government?We certainly hope so. There is no doubt that the event industry has not been highly recognised by Government for the signifi cant contribution it makes to the UK economy, so to have John Penrose, Minister for Tourism, attend the show, demonstrates the success of the Britain for Events campaign and industry-wide collaboration. I am sure that when Martin Lewis fi rst launched National Meetings Week, he hoped it would have this sort of impact. Is this a watershed year for Confex, with a move to new venue and a crossroads for many considering their exhibiting and travel budgets as never before?I would not describe it as a watershed year, but it is certainly a hugely important one. The joy of working on an exhibition is that it can fulfi l a number of objectives for companies and this is particularly true in a downturn. Visitors can spend one day at the show and cover an enormous amount of ground, meeting suppliers and venues, while exhibitors can use the show to meet new/current clients, launch a product or service or conduct market research. So, while there is a fi nancial and time investment to visiting or exhibiting at a show, it can actually be an exceptionally cost-effective exercise. How did you set out to defi ne this year's show and strategy?We spent a lot of time listening to both our visitors and exhibitors to fi nd out what they would like their industry show to be. We took a lot of these ideas on board and, with our show partners, have worked hard to bring this vision to life. Why did it take a while to recruit the new Event Manager? Is there a dearth of talent out there? There is certainly not a dearth of talent in the industry - you can see that in terms of the resilience events have shown in the past few years - but we were set on getting the right person. Ideally, the right person would not only have industry experience but also show exceptional organising skills, too, and so James (Samuel) fi tted the bill. Combine that with a three-month notice period and you have the time delay!How did the marketing and sales campaign progress throughout the past year. Were there any new market trends (such as late bookings, early bird tendencies)?In terms of sales process we are seeing more and more companies committing later in the cycle. This might be down to budget, but I also think that companies were waiting to see what our plans were this year and how our partnership with Excel would add real value to the show. For example, while some people were winding down for Christmas, we were running around booking more companies into Confex than in any of the previous months, resulting in the best December in years! Obviously we would prefer clients to book earlier as that means we have more time to plan and they get maximum return-on-their investment. Has Confex closed the perceived gap in the meetings mindset in terms of the hosted buyer programmes run by the While there is a fi nancial and time investment in to visiting a show, it can be very cost-effective

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