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INTERVIEW18 our communities want, we are in a position to deliver. But there's a stage in front of that which says we should know those communities well enough to be able to devise products. That may be an event, roadshow, digital product or social media. Doesn't being platform-agnostic involve a Different skill set to organising exhibitions?That's exactly the point. The majority of people I work with on a day-to-day basis are from an exhibition background, although we also have a smattering from publishing, editorial and marketing. What we are doing is bringing in new sets of people and skills that give us that bandwidth. It's a change in culture as well as skill and you need to affect that by introducing new products, people and ideas to the mix. The other thing we're trying to do is create a UBM culture that spans the world. It's about getting great businesses that work in Brazil, Turkey or the US to MD of UBM Live, London, simon parker is a great believer in leading innovation across its chosen communities globally. He talks to EN about the value of data, ROI and how events need to shape upA cULtURAL MIxof a good exhibition. After seven years I moved to Blenheim, which again had this rich experience but also an entrepreneurial spirit; everything was possible at Blenheim. The company became UBM via various incarnations and I've stuck with it for 15 years but have done so many things and worked with many gifted people during that time. What's in your branD portfolio toDay?I have about 30 different brands including security, safety and health, Air Traffic Control, TFM&A and related brands, International Confex, energy events and Leisure Industry Week. The portfolio is typical within UBM in that we look at the buyers and sellers within any one community. We aim to be platform-agnostic, so however people want to transact or access information, we'll provide the tools to do it. That said, the majority of revenue and focus in my portfolio is in events. What we need to be doing is become better placed to ensure that oW DiD you get into exhibitions?I come from a small northern town called Grimsby and did a degree in London, a city I fell in love with. My mother was a fantastic saleswoman and I felt it was something I could do well too, so when I came out of uni I looked for sales jobs and graduate programmes, which were of course unrelated to what I studied. I ended up working for Haymarket on Outdoor Action, a camping magazine, for a couple of years. After that, a recruitment agent put me onto exhibitions and I joined Montgomery. It was a nursery ground full of great people, and had a tradition for quality as well as pushing boundaries. Sandy [Angus, chairman] was always keen to explore new geographies and that's where I got my love of developing products outside the UK. One of the appeals of the industry, and what Montgomery instilled in me, is the desire to create a really powerful medium. The company gave me the fundamentals and helped me understand the mechanics h 19We are still behind in exhibitions in that we can't say 'you spend x and it will deliver y'. Until we come to terms with that, people are always going to question our value. I strongly believe in the value of face-to-face as most people do, but they want statistics demonstrating it. We also need to embrace digital and more content, bringing it all onto the show floor. If we're compelling, we won't have any problems in attracting visitors and exhibitors to what is an exciting and powerful medium. What's your biggest challenge?In this digital world, where people need instant gratification in the sense of return on investment, we're facing both the challenge and the opportunity. What we do puts us in an incredible position to leap forward and do more for our communities. If we don't do it, someone else could come in and say 'face-to-face is great, as a digital company we could move into that'. We've looked at the major exhibition players as competition, but we should recognise there are new competitors to learn a lot and work with each other to create a matrix management style. We have to work really hard to make that a reality, break down the barriers and create a common culture that says the sum of the parts is bigger than the individual elements. A cornerstone of this strategy is the Global Events Momentum [GEM] headed by Jane Risby-Rose. We are constantly kept updated via the Hub, which is effectively our communication and project management tool and has become embedded in what we do. Half the battle when trying to build a business is knowing who to go to: When you have the size of business and number of territories we are in, trying to find a brand manager or expert in Malaysia for example is a problem. The Hub, GEM and our community meetings help us do that. has this given your team more of an international focus?The UK is, and will continue to be, an important part of what we do, but actually the more exciting opportunities are where we're seeing double-digit growth rates in emerging markets. A lot of my team and my time is spent either looking at how we roll out our brands into other territories, or looking at partnerships or acquisitions of new business outside the UK. hoW much focus are you placing on acquisition versus organic groWth?There is no clear way of looking at - it depends on the market and community you serve. We have done reasonably well in both areas, although if you look at the last four years, we have made substantial acquisitions and I personally can't see that changing. ubm live restructured its uK business and appointed you md of ubm live, london, last november. What changes have you instigated?Fitting in with the overall UBM picture is important, so I've looked at the brands we have and where we don't have a presence, then where we have infrastructure, to marry those up. For example, we have massive infrastructure in China and yet some of my brands that are really applicable aren't there. What I've also tried to do is get the best people around me. I have mixed product, because the business I now run was formed out of two separate portfolios with similar but different cultures. This approach is also being influenced by several communities merging; we've aligned products where there are clusters. In addition, UBM Live has put training programmes in place and surveys that look at our corporate social responsibilities [CSR]. We do the Responsible Partnerships exhibition, which I think is a great thing. When we did our surveys we found a lot of employees want to act on the CSR we talk about, so we introduced I Volunteer, allowing everyone at UBM Live one day off per quarter to go and do charitable work and things they feel passionate about. That has great benefits to them and to us as a business. We need to future-proof our existing business but also look at other platforms outside of events to ensure the communities we serve get the best from us. Our customers want integrated marketing solutions and that isn't just events, it's a range of things. We have to join the dots and grow with them.can you outline expansion across your portfolio this year?We have just done an exciting JV in Turkey with NTSR and we have launches we're about to announce as there are great opportunities there. We've launched another major security event in London, and geoadapts in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. It's emerging and organic growth.are you looKing for other marKet segments?What we're looking for is attractive verticals and geographies. We have looked at businesses that show great characteristics in emerging markets and acquired those. That said, if you look at the biggest acquisitions we've made as a business in the past year, Canon Communications is in the US and Ecobuild in the UK. The beauty of the exhibition industry is the most dominant player only has four per cent market share, so you've still got this incredibly fragmented industry. are there plenty of acquisitions out there?If you are close to your industry and community, then there are a surprising amount of things that present themselves. I'm a great believer in the 'doors open doors' philosophy. It's one of the things I would hope we're good at as we spend a lot of time in-country and with our communities. One of the reasons people like being acquired by UBM is that we have experience and solid processes in place to do acquisitions. Secondly, it's about us adding value: Most of our deals are not 100 per cent acquisitions and they're long-lasting. has your strategy been impacted by the economic doWnturn?One of UBM's strong points is a balanced portfolio across the world and industries. While the UK is not having a particularly great time, Brazil continues to boom, China and India are doing well and we're seeing opportunities in Africa and the Middle East. The appetite to grow and develop is as strong as it has ever been. What are your top priorities this next year?There are always short-term operational challenges, and thankfully I have a fantastic team managing that process. What I and the management team are trying to do is look further afield to gauge what exhibitions will look like in 3-5 years' time. It's also about getting underneath the skin of our communities to find out what they want and what we feel they would want, because they don't always know. Again, that centres around digital and integrated marketing, and people wanting a clear ROI. The biggest asset we have is our data; we've not even scraped the surface of what we can achieve from the information we've got. Whoever figures that out first is going to have a great advantage. hoW are your physical exhibitions reflecting this KnoWledge push?It's in the additional content, the way we market shows, how we use our data and social media, and how we're personalising a person's visit far more than we did in the past. Mass market clearly isn't going to work in the future. Our events are far more content-rich - the days of just selling space and hoping people will turn up are over. If you look at what we do with TFM&A, and the level of content and speakers we bring to that, it's about being groundbreaking. That applies to every industry. The more you understand what is keeping your visitors awake at night, the better position you're in to deliver something exciting. As people increasingly blur their personal and business lives, they also expect more of an experience from us. If that is putting more showbiz elements into the trade show, then that's what we have to do. there is an argument that it's getting harder to get exhibitors and visitors to attend events. Would you agree?It will become more difficult if we don't address things like the ROI debate we've talked about for years. Companies are now used to having measurable ways of demonstrating the return on investment on any spend. The NEC, Birmingham25,468 (2011, ABC audited)Next show: 13-16 May 2013The NEC, Birmingham17,822 (2011, ABC audited)Next show: 14-16 May 2013Top 3 showsEarls Court 211,342 (ABC audited)Next show: 26-27 February 2013TFM&ASafety and Health ExpoIFSEC International