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EXHIBITION NEWSinterview22APRIL 2011EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UKare great to launch, but there comes a pointwhen you need to jettison the launch vehicle. Many of your current shows areconsumer - will you launch trade shows?At the moment we don't have any in theportfolio but it's not because we don't want todo them; it's just that the right opportunityhasn't arisen. We currently find ourselves witha consumer show focus. We tend to findwhen we get into a particular sector, such asfood, that we look to do other things withinthat sector. To what extent has your approachchanged over the years?You've always got to remember that events arevisitor-led. You have to ask yourself: Why is thevisitor coming? Often it's because they want agreat day out and therefore you need features.But you also have to create a market place forexhibitors to sell. It's making sure you get theright balance. How long do you hold onto shows?There have been one or two I've actively sold,but I'm pleased to say most times people havecome to us to buy them. I've been quite open-minded about selling shows and nine times outof 10 if I get approached and the money isright, then I'll sell it. The problem when you sellshows is you potentially rip the guts out of arelatively small business; you certainly take abig chunk of revenue out and you've still gotstaff and overheads. It can take a year or two toget the business back up to the level it wasbefore you sold them. There's also noguarantee that the new products you bring inare going to work. I've had failures and I'mhappy to admit those - some of those havebeen expensive and painful.Is it better to acquire or launch today?In the old days, people would just buy a showbecause it was a good idea and they wanted tobuy profits. Those days are long gone andpeople are much more strategic. There aren'tmany players these days who don't thinkglobally. In my mind, there's no point inlaunching a show in one territory unless youcan take it somewhere else. Thinking globally does present a host ofnew challenges. Our UK industry does prettywell globally. There are people like Clarionwith global businesses, and ITE Groupoperates in some risky territories. You have tospend time in the territories - there is no wayyou're going to build a big business sitting inLondon. You also have to be realistic aboutthe price you can get for a show - themultiples aren't what they used to be. But Ibelieve there are always opportunities for abright idea. There's possibly moreopportunity right now.The big overseas 5 135Art HK: The Hong KongInternational Art FairHong KongAnnual event, launched 200845,000 visitorsBetter Homes and Gardens:Sydney, AustraliaAnnual event, launched 201028,000 visitorsThe Baby and Toddler Show:Sydney, AustraliaAnnual event, launched 2010 15,000 visitorsThe Baby and Toddler Show:Melbourne, AustraliaAnnual event, launched 201014,000 visitorsArt Melbourne:Melbourne, AustraliaAnnual event, launched 200312,000 visitors24What's the toughest part of building abrand experience?I've always been a great believer in creatinggreat graphic identities. The title of the show isalso very important and has to be somethingpeople can identify with. When we startedRSVP, it was about corporate parties. I wasn'tgoing to call it The Corporate Party Show. In the early days, you have to spend adisproportionate amount on marketing to raiseawareness. Our shows are brands; theproblem we have is they're brands that onlyappear once a year. That is the industry'schallenge: To sustain brand value throughoutthe year. What is the difference between eventsand exhibitions?An event has to have a broader base ofcontent. In most cases, there are two types ofshows: What I call a market place, like SpringFair or the Toy Fair, where the retailer or thebuyer comes to source the product and placesthe order. That to me is an exhibition - a fewfeatures but in the main a market place. Wherethere's a problem is the 'looksy', feel-goodshows where the order pad doesn't come out.Yes, inquiries are taken, but no real business isdone. We try now to launch shows with atangible business element to them. What is the biggest challenge facing theexhibition industry?In the UK, the industry has got to do much moreto restore the marketing community'sconfidence in exhibitions as a good medium.There are far too many marketing managers,directors and executives who don't takeexhibitions seriously enough and that level hasincreased in the last few years. I don't know howmany UK shows have folded in the last couple ofyears, but it's got to run into the low hundreds,which can only mean it's because the exhibitingcommunity doesn't want to support it. Thatcomes back to finding a good ROI. While I have total admiration for themanagement of various exhibition centres inthe UK, I still think several are in denial abouttheir location, facilities and what they can do tomake them sexier. What are your top priorities for the next12 months?I'd like to look back at the end of the year andsay we've cemented our position as one of thelargest consumer organisers in Australia with astronger portfolio of shows and a greatreputation. We have 14 now; I'd like to see uswith 20 shows in two years. We are also closeto launching 2 or 3 additional shows in HongKong and the establishment of something inSingapore would also make me happy. At thesame time, we'll maintain the UK business andkeep an eye on what we can do here. EN