<b>Analysis</b>: Asian forum misses Euro input

The West may not have come in droves, but the first XM-Asia forum was deemed a big success. Emma Reynolds reports

The debut UFI XM-Asia forum, a tie-up between XM-Associated Exhibition Organisers (XM) and the Union of International Fairs (UFI), was attended by more than 100 delegates, but failed to attract a significant number of UK organisers. The two-day conference took place last month at the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre (SICEC). XM marketing executive Melissa Koeners says: “We were disappointed that UK and Euro- pean organisers didn’t show much interest. The aim was to create an Asian platform for exhibition organisers in that region as well as those who want to clone their US and European exhibitions in Asia, but it was of more interest to those already within the Asian industry.” Exposure Communications man- aging director Simon Burton, one of the UK speakers at the event, says: “I would have expected to see more UK organisers there to see whether the Asian market is one for them to get into, and use the forum as a piece of research. And I would have liked to have seen more Europeans there.” Koeners responds: “I think that perhaps European and US organisers have their attentions focused on their own markets rather than on exporting to Asia.” But she added that there were a number of speakers from European and US firms, such as Montgomery Exhibitions chairman Sandy Angus. Lack of interest CMP Asia president and chief executive Peter Sutton also spoke at the event. He believes the low attendance from Europe may reflect a lack of interest in launching fairs in Asia, or getting more Asian exhibitors and visitors to European events. He says: “If people are serious about developing their business in Asia then they should be there.” Sutton argues that the forum offers the opportunity to meet the best local organisers who would make perfect partners for launching events in the region or selling European shows to the Asian market. Expomedia chairman Roger Shashoua failed to turn up for his speech and sent Expocentres India chief executive Mukesh Sharma in his place. However, Shashoua believes events such as XM-Asia are invaluable. “There have been few changes in the exhibition industry for the past 20 years,” he says. “It is therefore imperative that people come together and discuss new ideas and developments, to multiply and reinforce the realisation of good innovative ideas. “Participation at these types of meetings makes first-hand information from key players available that could alter and expand delegates’ plans for these regions,” adds Shashoua. The event had initially been scheduled for January, but it was postponed while the original Internet and e-commerce topic was broadened to “Business strategies for exhibition organisers: tips and techniques for fut-ure growth”. Exposure’s Burton believes the change was a wise move. “You need to paint with a bigger brush stroke to attract people,” he says. The event took the format of a series of speeches and lectures from industry figures rather than workshops. Burton says: “In general, a show-and-do approach is better, but for this event it really wasn’t a problem. On the whole, the content was well balanced. It clearly worked.” The meeting was also a good opportunity for delegates to network. Burton adds: “It was one of the most open events that I have been to. People were up-front about the problems and difficulties of launching events in the region, and the discussions were open and engaging.” Positive responses Koeners says responses to the delegates’ questionnaires have been positive. “Most people said they were interested in all the topics and were pleased with the quality of speakers. And the attendance figure was higher than we expected,” she notes. The organisers are determined to build on this initial event and have already announced plans for a second forum next year. While CMP Asia’s Sutton believes there is a need for events like these, he feels that they will have to add value. “The organiser should try to create some sort of exchange where those who have shows they would like to organise in Asia can meet professional trade fair organisers in Asia. Out of this, some trade fairs may be launched,” he remarks. Koeners says: “We will look at the market before the next event to make sure we get a topic that’s relevant because we would like to have an interaction between continents so people can learn from each other’s experiences.” In addition to this, the opportunities in the Asian exhibition industry need to be made clear to European organisers if they are to have a substantial presence next time around.

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