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INTERVIEW18 did you get into exhibitions?In 1967 at the tender age of 20 I got a job with IPC [now Reed] selling magazine advertising and space on the Mechanical Handling Exhibition. In fact I almost left the industry before ever going to a show. I was homesick for the glorious seaside place I come from in Wales called The Mumbles and was in working my notice when the show came around in May 1968. It was at Earls Court for two weeks and had 60,000 visitors. Every stand seemed to be full of booze and birds so naturally I begged for my job back.Fifteen years later I ended up owning that exhibition. What we've sold this year [as part of Quartz Publishing and Exhibitions] to Informa is effectively the third iteration of that show: Mechanical Handling became the International Handling and Storage exhibition, then the International Materials Handling exhibition (IMHX). where did you go from there?After four years with IPC I joined Turret as advertisement manager of Storage Handling and Distribution [SHD], the magazine we have just sold to Informa. There I did my first launch, the SHD Exhibition at Olympia in 1976. This was so successful that I decided to start my own business called Trinity in 1978. Mike Cooke, who later became CEO of DMG World Media, was our first employee. The 1980s were a golden era for our industry Exhibitions hKeith Harris has launched more than 90 shows during his career and has a stake in brands across the globe. he catches up with EN to discuss how he's still going strong after more than 40 years of a lifEtimE 19What advice do you have for other organisers?The most important piece of advice is that if they don't promote their shows they are shooting themselves in the foot. It is unbelievably stupid not to overspend on show promotion. For a normal trade show, 10 per cent of revenue is the minimum but 15 is better. For consumer shows, you have to spend more and if you add in the content it's way over 30 per cent. Will exhibitions ever die out?No they won't. The Internet cannot replace the unique situation where multiple potential suppliers can be accessed in one place. If you go to Glassman in Dubai you will see visiting executives from all over the Middle East huddled around tables or stands in deep discussion with the salesmen. There is an amazing buzz and you realise that this is why exhibitions work. My favourite saying is 'You don't know what you don't know' and there is no better way of finding out than at an exhibition. newark, uKEurope's largest antiques fair with up to 2,000 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors held six times a, spain (peripatetic)The flagship in a global series of expos for the fine and speciality chemicals market with 5,000 attendees.3 key showsand we launched dozens of new trade shows. I started Trinity Travel Exhibitions in 1981 with my great friend Ivan Allen, which got us into consumer events with a holiday show at Alexandra Palace and regional ski shows. This is how the connection with the Daily Mail Group [DMG] came about. The then editor, the late Sir David English, was a fanatical skier and approached us in 1987 to buy the British Ski Show at The NEC. Having done that, they wanted to buy the rest.I was quite young and didn't want to collect a big bag of money and do nothing, so I did a deal where we merged English's exhibition business with mine and I became MD and a major minority shareholder. That is how DMG came into being. Earls Court 2 was being built and my first major decision was whether to take it as part of the Ideal Home Show tenancy. It was a huge commitment, particularly as we were not quite filling all of Earls Court 1, but we also didn't want other organisers piggybacking on a show that was still attracting well over 500,000 visitors. The solution I came up with was a series of four-day shows on related lifestyle topics, the first BBC Good Food Show being one, that ran Thursday to Sunday over the four weekends of Ideal Home. It was a great idea that definitely saved Ideal Home in the recession of the early 1990s but for Ivan and his show team it was an absolute nightmare! DMG expanded and I was getting further and further away from being a hands-on manager so I decided in 1994 to step down. I moved to Switzerland but continued to help DMG with its aggressive acquisition plans. I identified and helped buy shows such as Index and The Big 5 in Dubai and the California Gift Show and Surf Expo in the States. Gastech was probably the best buy of the lot. In all I've launched 90 shows and also lots of small, regional ones and held shows in 90 British venues.Why did you decide to sell Quartz Publishing and events and iMhx to inforMa?My business partner Paul Michael and I bought DMG's Redhill business two years ago and renamed it Quartz Business Media. We needed to move offices and bought an office block nearby that could also accommodate our Quartz Publishing and Events staff that were based at Uxbridge. Simultaneously we had offers to buy the business and as the staff were going to be disrupted by the move we thought it was an appropriate time to sell. Informa was one of the potential buyers and we particularly liked the synergies between its logistics products and ours. It made sense to sell to them.hoW about the reMaining Quartz business?We still have the cleaning portfolio plus Quartz Business Media, which is a £10m business with 55 people. We run 17 exhibitions outside Britain plus magazines. Our plan over the next five years is to grow Quartz internationally. We've just launched a new show in Singapore in a completely new market with a partner and we'll be doing a lot more of that. Our shows are in very specialised markets worldwide. For example, we have a series of shows called Glassman covering glass bottle manufacturing. These run in places like Sao Paolo and Dubai as it tends to be European technology being taken to expanding markets. We have trade shows in Speciality Chemicals Coatings, Tobacco and Oils and exhibitions choose you or is it you Who chooses theM?Well it is a bit of both. Over the years I have launched about 90 shows but most of the business I am now involved with is down to my relationship with DMG. Three years ago DMG undertook a strategic review and decided to concentrate on high growth markets, which resulted in the company selling large chunks of the empire. I had bought and ran lots of those businesses for DMG so was an obvious buyer as I already knew most of the warts. As part of this divestment I bought into VOS Media. I also bought the International Antiques and Collectors Fair [IACF] in 1991.What Was your best exhibition?I would have to say the most successful show was the International Handling and Storage Exhibition in 1986. I had 69 letters afterwards from exhibitors thanking us and normally you'd get two or three.My biggest professional achievement was probably Interaction at The NEC in 1999, which was well over 100,000sqm gross. The concept was to create a German 'super exhibition' built around the logistics sector. We launched six exhibitions around the core show. But while it was my greatest achievement in terms of biggest event, the show wasn't a success because of that fact: It was too big. British visitors only come for the day and in that time they simply couldn't get around it all so there were a lot of frustrated visitors and exhibitors.hoW about your Worst shoW?I have had two forays into the consumer fashion show market 20 years apart but both were received the outstanding contribution aWard at the 2011 aeo aWards. hoW iMPortant is industry recognition to you?To be acknowledged by your peers is the highest honour. To be compared to Sandy Angus, Mike Rusbridge, Kevin Murphy and Richard Copley-Smith [the greatest exhibition organiser of them all in my opinion] is a truly wonderful accolade. Yes making money is the most important thing in business, but it isn't everything. A friend of mine has made £100m but he's anonymous and has no peer recognition of any real sort. I'm not saying he's not happy but he doesn't have that thing that I now feel from being the recipient of this award. it's been a year since you had a successful oPeration for throat cancer. has that changed your outlooK on What you do?Well sadly I can't drink champagne yet or eat Kettle Crisps the way I used to but I am told things will improve. Fortunately I don't have a day-to-day role in any of the businesses so since the operation I have been trying to get the work/play balance tilting a bit more towards the play. I have stepped back from the chairman's job at VOS Media for instance because I can't give the management team the support they need. However, I am fortunate to have a diverse portfolio covering every aspect of our industry. I am always curious to know what is happening so it is not all play just yet.What's in your Portfolio today?I have large outdoor events including the biggest antique fair in Europe with 2,000 exhibitors in Newark, UK six times a year. VOS Media is in consumer shows, then Quartz Business Media runs international shows plus the parochial UK cleaning show, and I am a director of BPL, which does the communication industry's prestigious summit at Gleneagles each year. Then with my son in the US I've got a highly successful business based on the one-to-one, invited visitors model. It's almost like speed dating. The satisfaction scores we get from visitors and exhibitors are almost 100 per cent, which is far higher than for conventional trade exhibitions. Perhaps this type of event is the future.las vegas, usOne-to-one, invite-only event that attracts 70 exhibitors and 280 visitors.Supply Chain Operators Private Expo (SCOPE)Chemspec EuropeInternational Antiques and Collectors Fair