ANALYSIS: Uniting nations - XM Europe was founded to get people to share information and ideas across country borders. Philip Chadwick reports on the organisation's third and most successful meeting to date

Exhibition industry representatives from across the Continent

descended on Prague for Exhibition Management (XM) Europe's summer

meeting. The July event, organised by the European Association for

Exhibition Organisers, drew 200 delegates from 30 countries.



XM Europe was founded in 1998 by exhibition organiser Eef de Ferrante

after he saw how the US industry came together to share information,

network and educate itself. "The idea was to get everyone together and

exchange ideas," says XM Europe managing director Cornelien Baijens.

"The industry is becoming more globalised so we wanted to meet once or

twice a year to make sure people have a free flow of information."



XM Europe held its inaugural meeting in Amsterdam last summer, followed

by its first winter meeting at Excel in London's Docklands. The theme of

the December event was Next Generation Tools for Exhibition Organisers,

but it attracted a disappointing number of delegates.



"We only had about 130 people and we had expected more," explains

Baijens.



"I think the theme of the event could have been more precise. If we had

focused it more, along with better promotion, then we could have

attracted more people."



Improvements were needed for the event at the Hilton Hotel Prague,

entitled One-to-one Marketing for Exhibition Organisers. Baijens

believes it delivered the goods. "The delegates all stayed in one place

at the venue. Everybody was together and able to mix with the numerous

activities on offer," she says.



Exhibition-success.com managing director Simon Desai, who gave a speech

on web strategies, thinks the informal approach worked. "Everyone was

relaxed and spoke the truth and the event provided a laid-back

environment in which to do business," he says.



Other speakers included Reed Exhibition Companies president Michael

Breet who delivered the keynote speech on how to survive in today's

exhibition industry.



"The speeches were really informative with some good professional

speakers," Desai adds. "It was also a huge cost saving as all the right

people were there. Usually, for me to talk to them separately would cost

a fortune in business travel."



Exposure Communications director Simon Burton spoke at the event about

making the most of a PR budget. "The audience was spot on and really

receptive," he says. "But there could have been a few workshops. People

should be going to the show to do rather more than just talk. It gives

people the chance to work through situations and brainstorm with

colleagues from around the world."



Desai adds: "I think XM Europe could be very useful for inviting client

exhibitors to talk to organisers who are at the sharp end of shows. For

example, XM Europe could have invited Czech businesses to the

conference, enabling them to meet organisers and sit in presentations or

seminars about successful exhibiting."



Burton also notes that there were few English organisers. Baijens

responds: "I don't think there is a big difference in attitude between

the UK and the rest of Europe," Baijens says. "We get a lot of responses

from the UK as it is one of the biggest markets in Europe. We plan to

come back.



I can't say exactly when, but it will be in the next two to three

years."



The group is also preparing its first XM Asia meeting, which is due to

take place in January 2002 at Singapore International Convention and

Exhibition Centre.



"Asia is a growing area and there are some active national associations

there," Baijens adds. "But it is fragmented and there is hardly any

exchange of information. That's why we've decided to take the jump in

that region."




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