Association Business UK: Case Studies - Snapshots of the industry

Jennifer Creevy and Sharon Greaves provide a selection of well-established and popular association events.


The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has been staging the annual Dairy Event for more than 100 years. The last event ran from 21-22 September at NAC Stoneleigh Park.

The event enables those in the dairy industry to discover the latest technical developments in the key areas of improvement: milk quality, fertility, lameness and overall herd health.

On average, the show attracts 12,000 visitors over two days, and with 391 exhibitors this year's event was a sell-out. It had a waiting list of more than 12 companies and was 10% up on last year's total exhibitor number of 350.

NAC Stoneleigh Park operations manager Danny Holmes says Dairy Event has grown and diversified in recent years. "This year's show used more space - 20,000sqm indoors and 17,500sqm outdoors - and has changed over the past few years," he says. "It has grown from the core dairy exhibitors to include those in related industries, and has adapted in line with how the agriculture industry has changed."

RABDF event manager Richard Evans says NAC Stoneleigh Park is a good fit for Dairy Event. "Stoneleigh Park has a background in agriculture and also offers the right amount of indoor and outdoor space for us," he says. "We've been in several locations over the years, including London and Yorkshire, but have been at Stoneleigh since 1974."

This year's Dairy Event also featured several new elements. These included Diversifarm and Beef from the Dairy Herd. Diversifarm is a mini exhibition covering farm diversification activities, including rural finance and business planning, leisure and tourism, plus the environment and conservation.

Beef from the Dairy Herd was an area where farmers could find out more about how they can create useful income streams using beef from their dairy herds, and was run by event sponsor the English Beef and Lamb Executive.

HSBC is Dairy Event's principal sponsor and senior agriculture manager John Barker maintains the show is key for networking. "HSBC has been committed to the agriculture industry for several years and we've seen the show develop, with more farmers than ever now visiting. It's a great place for us to show how we can help their businesses grow."


The Community Transport Association (CTA) represents companies and bodies involved in every aspect of community transport, including vehicles used by voluntary and community groups, schools, colleges and local authorities.

Each year the association holds an exhibition to bring together buyers and suppliers of transport and services.

The next event will run from 8-10 November at Manchester's G-Mex. Exhibition manager Diann Quinn explains that this is the show's 25th anniversary and the fourth year it has been staged at G-Mex, having relocated several times for reasons of space. "It started on the Lancaster University campus and has relocated to Blackpool, Telford and now Manchester," she says.

G-Mex event planner Natalie Calder explains that the Community Transport Event has a three-month lead time and a two-day build up. "While the show is not necessarily the biggest for us, it requires specialist attention because there are lots of large vehicles and equipment to bring in and set up," she says.

Quinn also believes Manchester itself is a draw for the exhibition because it provides a mix of hotels, bars and restaurants needed for the exhibition: "Lots of our exhibitors and visitors come from the voluntary sector so we need plenty of low-cost accommodation and restaurants, as well as more expensive places."

This year's event has grown once again with 80 exhibitors booked in so far, compared to 69 in 2004. It attracts more than 4,300 visitors over the three days and exhibitors include Allied Vehicles, Commercial Vehicle Innovations, John Dennis Coachbuilders and Plaxton.

Exhibitor Unwin Safety Systems has attended the show every year. Sales and marketing manager Gerry O'Connor says it is the most important exhibition in his calendar: "The show has a bias towards the transport of disabled people, and that is our exact target market. Most of the vehicles employed for that purpose use some of our equipment so the show is excellent for selling and networking opportunities."

The CTA also runs a conference alongside the exhibition. This year's central theme is Social Enterprise and Partnership. Conference sessions will address issues including social enterprise, concessionary travel and transport, and will look ahead to the next 25 years. The CTA will also stage a 25th birthday party on the exhibition floor on the evening of 9 November.


Royal Horticultural Halls and Conference Centre head of sales and marketing Maugie Lyons rates the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) Theatre Show one of the venue's biggest successes, not least because it has now hosted the exhibition for 14 years.

The venue's architecture and affinity with the theatre first drew the association to the facility in 1992, she says, and as it has become more international and exhibitor numbers have grown the event has spread out to use every inch of space.

Theatre show director Roger Fox explains: "We first went to the venue at a time when the Royal Horticultural Halls was looking for new exhibitions.

Up to that point the show had always been held in theatres but we started to outgrow them. We enjoyed the experience at the halls. It was very satisfactory from the point of view of staff and service, plus the visitors liked it and the central location was good. Although the show has a national audience, 50% of visitors come from the South East."

The event first used Lindley Hall and seven years later moved on to the larger Lawrence Hall. Two years after that the association decided to use both spaces. "The first year it was a bit difficult with one hall buzzing, the other not, but now we have cracked it," says Fox. "We make sure there is a good spread of exhibitors in both halls, which attracts visitors to cross the division." He adds that a number of organisations, including the Stage Managers Association, also hold their annual general meetings in the conference centre during the event.

The annual two-day exhibition, which is run by Theatrical Trading, is the only one in the UK devoted exclusively to theatre equipment. It was last held in June and attracted 120 exhibitors and 2,400 end-users.

Dates have been reserved for future shows. The 2006 event is about to be launched and Fox fully expects two thirds of exhibition space to be sold out by December, and stand sizes may have to be limited - 25 metres is the biggest, with most averaging 12.5 metres. "We have a popular show with high demand," he says, "and it is fair to say that we have not yet come up with an alternative setting that meets all our requirements."


Manufacturing technology show MACH is held at the NEC every two years.

Organised by the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), the next show takes place from 15-19 May 2006.

MACH is a showcase for metal-cutting and metal-forming machine tools, along with related products and services. It was first held in 1912 at Olympia and moved to the NEC in 1976.

The last event - held from 19-23 April 2004 - pulled in 450 exhibitors and 20,809 visitors. Exhibition manager Graham Shearsmith expects MACH 2006 to be even bigger, due to several new elements.

Firstly, MACH 2006 will be co-locating with the DFA Media-owned shows Drives and Controls, Electrex and Airtech. They will be located in Hall 2 of the NEC while MACH takes up Halls 4 and 5 with a possible overflow in Hall 3a.

"We feel that these shows will add value for potential visitors," says Shearsmith. "Their co-location also enforces the strength of MACH as a show in its own right, because other shows want to be associated with it."

The extra new elements for the next event include MACHplus and MACHconsult.

MACHplus is a section for companies from complementary industries, such as Health and Safety and materials handling, while MACHconsult is a related seminar programme.

NEC Group senior account manager Charlotte Careswell says MACH has one of the longest tenancies of all the exhibitions that the venue stages and has grown dramatically over the years, due to the large machinery that needs to be lifted into the halls. She says event planners "liaise closely with the show organisers and their experienced lifting and safety experts to help deliver the exhibition on time".

Exhibitors at MACH include 600 Group, Yamazaki Mazak, Camtek, Hydrafeed and Linear Tools. Camtek director, sales and marketing, Terry Antrobus, maintains the exhibition is key for networking. "We already enjoy a strong and established international dealer network, but also met up with new potential partners in Europe and the Far East at last year's show," he says.

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