Interview| Exhibition World 18| April 2011| Although not a pure-bred exhibition organiser,publishing giant Informa runs 130 exhibitionsaround the world. Peter Rigby has been chiefexecutive of the US$4.2bn global business since 1988,then trading as Informa Business Communications.Today, one third of the company's profits come fromexhibitions, conferences and corporate training. Itsbusiness is expanding rapidly.As a niche provider of information and knowledge,many of the company's exhibitions came from largerconferences, magazines or newspapers, with othersspawned from partnerships with media companies ortrade associations.The company recently formed a new single brand of10 global business companies under the name InformaExhibitions, including IIR and Euroforum.Informa Exhibitions will promote and manage its showsin the US, Europe, South Africa, Middle East, BRIC andAustralia. Its top exhibitions include the Monaco YachtShow, Arab Health and IPEX, the quadrennial globalprinting industry event.Here, Informa chief executive Peter Rigby tells EWthatexhibitions and tradeshows were the company's mostresilient products in 2010, soon to provide the mainstayof the company's events revenues.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NETInside InformaInforma chief executive Peter Rigbytalks to EWabout humble beginnings, going aftervirtual events and being cured of accountancy.How did you get into the international exhibition business?I joined Stonehart Publications in 1983 as finance director.Stonehart was the forerunner to Informa and was alreadyin the conference and small exhibitions arena. Fromrelatively humble beginnings and a combination oforganic launches, mergers and acquisitions withinInforma we now have 130 exhibitions.Having been an accountant in 1983, I became chiefexecutive of the Group in 1988 and stumbled into theexhibition business having been cured of accountancy.For us it has been an exciting ride from what was a verysmall company to one with a current market capitalisationof £2.5bn and on the verge of the FTSE 100.What are Informa's goals for the next 12months? Five years?Over the last three years, Informa has experienced toughtimes like many companies. We have been somewhatprotected by our publishing businesses althoughexperienced some weaknesses within events. For many people in events, Informa included, 2011 hasto be the year when growth returns. Certainly the stockmarket is expecting that of us. This year is a year ofexpansion for us and we expect to run 30 more shows
19Exhibition World | Interviewthan we did in 2010 which will be a mixture of organicgrowth and acquisitions. In addition we expect to seegood growth from our existing shows. Beyond five years is difficult to predict, especiallywhen we live in such a volatile economic and geo-political world. In broad terms though I would expect usto be 50 per cent bigger than we are now in emergingmarkets, which will go broader than the BRIC nations.I see exhibition revenues becoming the biggestelement of our events business due to the growth ofexhibitions rather than declines elsewhere.What challenges does Informa face? How areyou addressing them?I am not sure we are facing more challenges than anyother company. The biggest challenge is the pace of change in theworld, which could be as much of an opportunity as athreat. Technology is changing quickly, people arechanging jobs more rapidly. Suppliers' and customers'expectations and aspirations are also very differentfrom what they were. More broadly, the world order ischanging too. At Informa we address all these issues/challenges andmany internal ones by being faithful to our businessmodel. Essentially we embrace change quickly and arefully aided by being flat, un-bureaucratic and nimble asan organisation.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| April 2011|We try to make the business a rewarding place towork and have been hugely successful with CSR andother initiatives.What new technologies are you backing?I find this a very difficult question because it isabsolutely uncertain what the future willbring. Even more so, it is very hard to seehow technology will evolve and which willwin. However, things will change. I thinkthe most important thing is that we areable to fit into any technology rather than usdetermine the pace or type of change. I think technology should be simple,albeit in a complex world,moreover it should be flexible andfit for purpose. I actually think thatinvestment in one technology whileforsaking all others is a guaranteedroute to disaster. How has the exhibitionindustry changed and whereis it headed?Obviously the exhibition businesshas changed a lot and it hasbecome more specialised andniche. In particular the demandsfrom exhibitors and sponsors interms of return on investment haverightly increased in importance.The exhibition organiser has afantastic opportunity if it stops beingjust an organiser and becomes apartner with venues, visitors, exhibitorsand suppliers in order to enhance theoverall experience.With the likely structural demise ofthe trade magazine market, due to thelack of ROI and the arrival of theinternet in my opinion, the exhibitionsmarket has a great opportunity to pickup on this revenue stream and enhancethe opportunities that arise from face-to-face meetings.It is our job to accept that this hashappened and work harder onputting together buyers andsellers in an appropriateenvironment. People talk long and hard about"I see exhibition revenues becomingthe biggest element of our eventsbusiness due to the growth ofexhibitions rather than declineselsewhere."Going after the virtual event crownThe company recently launched Informa Virtual BusinessCommunications (Informa VBC), a new division to serve thefast-growing virtual event and tradeshow market. Informa VBC,based in London, is not only part of a B2B media giant, but alsohas in-house capabilities through a virtual technology businessit acquired in Germany four years ago. The company has a longlist of corporate clients going back 10 years, but being part ofInforma now means the technology can be put to use for someof the group's trade shows and conferences around the world.The international centre for VBC is based in London from wherenew virtual events will also be launched this year.