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ick Orton has had a relatively low profile in the last couple of years after selling his trade show business to CloserStill Media. But don't think for a second it's because he's been idle. Following CloserStill's acquisition of Orton's Pioneer Global Media business in 2008, which included healthcare trade shows such as The Pharmacy show, the Dentistry Show, London Vet Show and International Custom Bike Show, then a two-year stint as his acquirer's MD, Orton returned to the drawing board to develop a new breed of exhibitions. Still under a non-compete on trade shows until mid-2012, this serial entrepreneur has chosen to spend the past 18 months building a series of consumer shows. The bedrock of Pioneer Shows' new portfolio is the successful BodyPower Expo (pictured) at The NEC. "We have three consumer shows: BodyPower Expo at The NEC which is all about 'power' sports; B-fit Expo at Excel, which is a more general fitness event; and a new event called SportEx Festival in Manchester, based on sporting competitions and tournaments," Orton told EN. "I'm also involved in a number of other business ventures formed from vertical market opportunities in the fitness industry."Keeping fitBodyPower, which next takes place from 18 to 20 May, reported a 92 per cent increase in visitors to The NEC in 2011. Orton attributes this success to the show's dedication to its consumer base."Enthusiasts have two things in common. Firstly, they like to learn about their interest and secondly, they have heroes who they respect for their achievements," he explained. "We have invested in bringing the top names from various power sports to the show and focused on giving the visitor quality learning from the leading authorities - happy visitors spread the word very effectively."BodyPower now occupies 25,000sqm gross and is expected to attract 30,000 visitors this year. The show will open for a third day for the first time in 2012 and due to the quality and quantity of content, demand for two and three-day passes is high, Orton said. In turn, this has lifted the visitor yield. "I'm confident BodyPower Expo will attract 50,000 visitors by 2015," Orton predicted. In the shorter term, Pioneer is rolling out a series of new initiatives this year including the WMKF British Championships, a prestigious martial arts tournament attracting 800-1,000 competitors, along with the 3Run Free running area. Other new content in this year's show is the BodyPower MMA championships, run by ex-European entrepreneurs22 www.exhibitionnews.co.ukneed a fantastic atmosphere, unique offerings, to be engaging and offer great entertainment."Moving forward, Orton didn't rule out acquisitions as a way for organisers to build strength and presence. Coming up with a new idea or niche for a show is difficult but making it work is harder, he pointed out."Developing a show is much like the world's strongest man pulling a lorry: Watching it on TV, most wouldn't realise how much work has gone into setting up the pull, then you have to get the wheels moving. But once they start rolling, it's just about keeping the momentum up, which is still a challenge but relatively easy," he said."Getting a show established correctly, with industry support, is the basis for long-term success, so acquiring once the majority of the hard work has been done is a smart move, assuming you get the deal right and stick to it." So what additional advice does Orton have for other exhibition organisers looking to go out on their own and launch a show or expand their portfolio?"If you have an idea that you think will work, keep it to yourself until you find someone experienced who you can trust," he advised. "Sadly the industry is littered with 'self-styled experts' who never actually come up with any good ideas, but talk a good story. So be careful."If you're an entrepreneur looking for a success story, I'd look at what you're doing at the moment and think laterally. There are plenty of tasty opportunities right under our noses, but the real entrepreneurs will be able to sniff out the richest ones and will have the courage and drive to make them work."muscling in on new opportunitiesnnick Orton talks to EN about his entrepreneurial roots, his latest consumer show ventures, plans for industry growth and how he expects to find ongoing success as an exhibition organiserand UK Champion Sol Gilbert; a large, evening event, primarily for bodybuilders with 3,000 seats called 'IFBB An Audience with the Pros'; a Male Grooming area, featuring the national competition 'Britain's Best Groomed Male'; and the BJJ National Championships with more than 1,000 competitors.While the consumer journey has proved fruitful, trade shows are in Orton's blood. As a result, Pioneer will look to establish a position in the B2B space later this year."I'm enjoying growing the consumer business and looking at vertical market opportunities, but my main focus for the second part of 2012 will be trade show launches once my non-compete expires in the summer," Orton said. "I love the challenge of launching new events and I'm going to be getting my hands very dirty selling space myself. "I used to love that part of the job and I can't wait to get back to it."ensuring the thrillUnlike many of his counterparts, Orton doesn't blame the exhibition industry's downturn to economic factors. He blames it on boredom. "Some shows are so boring and dull for the visitors, which is the result of complacency and laziness," he claimed. "All events should be approached like they are rock concerts: The visitor should look forward to attending and leave with a smile on their face, telling their pals how great it was. Anything less is a failure."Imagine the very best rock concert, with areas where you can find out about the band, learn about how you can become a rock star, shop for music. Exhibitions

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