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FEATURE24 www.exhibitionnews.co.uk

rganisers will sometimes smile ruefully when talking about their dealings with venues. You might even get the impression there is a civil tolerance about their relationship. After all, negotiations between the two are often a friendly tug-of-war. Of course, anyone will agree a pleasant, cooperative relationship is always a preferable, not to mention more effective, way of working together.To an outsider, a venue appears an empty vessel waiting for the organiser to fill with people, stands and business. This may have been true in the boom times when demand for space outweighed supply, but those days are gone. Nowadays, exhibition hall owners have had to look hard at how they can embellish their offerings to attract big game. The question becomes: How much of a role can a venue take in an exhibition without becoming a bona fide shareholder? "It's almost gone full circle, like every industry does," said Brian Wiseman, chief operating officer of Wise Guys Consultancy. "When I started out in this business every hall owner had an exhibition organiser arm as well. In the late 1970s and 1980s that was a big part of the business. The private organisers brought that out of the mix, but it was only a matter of time until hall owners came back into it."To an extent, Wiseman blamed a risk-adverse economic market for the push from venues to get more involved in organising exhibitions."Independent organisers are too nervous to risk finance by signing tenancies," he claimed. "You have got the hall owner with empty halls and they're trying to fill them. Depending on how confident they are with the personnel, they might partner with a private organiser or launch a show of their own."Wiseman argued hall owners, being the ones with the largest overheads to meet, are under increasing pressure to take the initiative to attract organisers and keep existing clients loyal. Initiatives range from investing in infrastructure, analysing data and conducting market research to actually pitching shows or forming joint ventures with organisers to run events."If organisers aren't buying tenancies, the venue has no choice but to become an organiser itself, and that's what's happening," Wiseman said. "It's a game everyone's playing at the moment."Adding to the formulAVenues are taking more responsibility for the direction and success of exhibitions with better intelligence, services and support. Mike Trudeau looks at the changing organiser-venue relationshipFEATUREwww.exhibitionnews.co.uk 25If you buIld IT.So what exactly are venues doing to increase their offerings and bring services and intelligence to an organiser's show? The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) is investing in its own infrastructure to accommodate its biggest exhibition, the 25,000sqm, 35,000-visitor Offshore Europe (OE). A show on the grow, the oil and gas exhibition was filling the AECC to bursting point.To allow the biennial show to continue growing, the AECC has undertaken a £1m project to level and enlarge one of its car parks to build temporary structures into which the exhibition can expand. The venue is adding improved drainage and remote power supplies as well."We have a long-term contract with the organisers of OE, which is a partnership between Reed Exhibitions and the Society of Petroleum Engineers," said AECC MD Brian Horsburgh. "Within our contract there has been some agreement that we will make certain improvements over time to the venues. There has been a regular succession of upgrades we have made specifically to enhance that event."Although OE is the jewel in the AECC's exhibition crown, the venue isn't above lending a helping hand to its many smaller launch exhibitions too, even if it isn't to the same grand scale."We do quite a number of much smaller shows and are obviously dealing with quite small-scale organisers sometimes, so we try to have a genuine partnership with the organiser to make the show successful," Horsburgh said. "We have our own exhibition stand business so we can provide stand contracting for example."A lAunch helpIng hAndConsidering the recession, organisers can't be blamed for being cautious when it comes to launching new shows. However, if the AECC is any example to go by, venues are chomping at the bit to get launches off the ground. Consider this next time you are pondering a launch: How would the venue help you out in order to win your show? Although launches are riskier investments than established money-makers, a good one will likely stay in the same venue is as long as it's successful."We try to provide support and assistance on the marketing side to help promote the event," Horsburgh said. "In other circumstances we have and will o