The changing landscape: Credit where credit's due

Reaching this symbolic anniversary put us in a reflective mood, so we've called upon 10 experts to calmly ponder the past decade and then reveal what they consider to have been the industry's defining moments.

Both of mine are venue-related. Firstly, I believe the acquisition of Earls Court and Olympia by the Morris family - and Andrew Morris specifically - meant a great deal to the exhibition industry. Morris transformed not just the ethics and fabric of the business but also made it a really strong, competitive venue. Similarly, my second point is that the advent of Excel caused the exhibition industry, and particularly venues, to rethink their customer service offer. Initially the industry expected Excel to produce an oversupply of space, but this didn't happen. Both changes helped the exhibition organiser community to focus on customer service and the needs of clients - be they visitors or exhibitors.

ANDREW EVANS, managing director, Fresh RM

I believe there are two disassociated events that have had a huge effect on the industry as a whole. First, Deng Xiaoping's ability to develop China's five-year plan in the late-1980s has allowed the country the freedom to develop. In political terms this has proved to be an astonishing development and has created an expansive industrial base.

Second, the emergence of broadband and the ability to download information rapidly means people have changed the way they do things. The potential effect on the industry is immense. The broadband wave is still coming in so we can't be sure of the effect yet.

The combination of these two factors could have a massive influence.

Websites such as Alibaba.com allow anyone anywhere to view what suppliers and products are on offer in southern China.

PHIL SOAR, AEO board member

My first choice is the Morris family taking over at Earls Court and Olympia, with Andrew Morris assuming the reins as head honcho, because of the ripple effect it had across the UK exhibition business. It brought the truly awful P&O/Scrimgeour reign to an end. That regime was, in my view, emblematic of the worst kind of sellers' market.

Morris, by contrast, is a brilliant big picture/strategy guy who has now transformed the landscape by treating organisers as customers, not just tenants, innovating and seeking to raise standards. The opening of Excel and, ironically, the decline in the market after 9/11 and the bursting of the dotcom bubble, eventually helped re-create a dynamic landscape with venues prepared to work harder for their business and, to be fair, being bold enough to begin to consider sharing risk and stimulating innovation.

My second choice is the democratic appointment of Brenda Daly as chair of the AEO. The industry's leading body has its first-ever female chair, proof at last that the sector doesn't have to be dominated by middle-aged, middle-class white men. Hopefully this will give encouragement to a whole range of talented individuals who can now see that our industry is able to judge individuals strictly on their merits.

ANDY CENTER, managing director, Ithaca Media

I'm going to go for two things that don't have precise dates but will stand our industry in good stead for the next 10 years.

One is the evolution of content-filled, interactive events and exhibitions.

Chemistry, Taste of London, MPH, Spirit of Christmas and Grand Designs are some obvious examples among the new generation of consumer events. Trade examples such as 100% Design, the Thames Gateway Forum and the reborn Internet World, among others, prove that content and experience are king.

For my second highlight I'm going to credit the pioneers of today's exhibition/event industry who have given so much time and support to the current generation of CEOs. It is a massive credit to our industry that the likes of Simon Kimble, Chris Hughes, Paul Thandi, Andy Center, Doug Emslie et al frequently credit Richard Copley Smith, Sandy Angus, Andrew Morris, Peter Osborne, Brian Wiseman, Keith Greetham, Phil Soar and Tim Etchells for their incredible desire to share their knowledge with the next generation. What's more, I've been in the very fortunate position to spend much time with, and learn a great deal from, all of these pioneers.

This support has placed the current leaders in a strong position to run the kind of events listed above; events that will characterise the next 10 years.

TREVOR FOLEY, group chief executive, Events Industry Alliance

At the risk of seeming predictable, the two elements that come immediately to my mind are Excel and the internet. A modern, purpose-built venue for the capital had been needed for decades and its success has demonstrated just how much pent-up demand for space there was. Excel has allowed this country to continue doing what it does best, which is to innovate. Not only has it given the big shows room to expand, it has also enabled a whole new breed of experimental consumer shows to develop, to the benefit of all major venues.

The internet has had, and will continue to have, a major impact on the events industry. As far as Reed Exhibitions is concerned, it has enabled us to offer completely new and innovative services to enhance our customers' experience at our events. It is also enabling us to stay close to customers for an extended period of time. We see the internet as complementing what we do, and, contrary to what some cynics in the industry might say, we believe it has contributed to increased attendance across our portfolio.

MIKE RUSBRIDGE, chief executive, Reed Exhibitions

In 1997 we launched the Erotica Show, which we sold after the first event. Having spoken to the current organisers following its visit to Olympia in November last year, I discovered that it enticed more than 84,000 visitors across three days. It has continued to grow and is a successful and quirky show in a small industry. Unfortunately, some individuals look at potential shows and aim to grow them to 3,000 sqm net in order to then sell them on. This show started at 600 sqm but it has figures on the gate and visitors coming through. Most people in the industry look for the one big show, as opposed to two or three little ones.

The ITE Moda Show was a great launch at a time when Emap controlled much of the industry in London with shows such as Pure and 40 degrees. There was still the opportunity to launch in Birmingham, which I think was a great achievement.

BRIAN WISEMAN, events industry consultant

The internet has seen a number of products transfer online and work very successfully. At the AEO conference in 2001 we were debating what impact the internet might have. It has undoubtedly influenced each sector and market differently. Similarly, it has affected visitors and exhibitors.

Visitors especially have been affected because it is increasingly easy to source products online, rather than attending an event. Those organisers who have embraced it have had an enhancing experience. Ultimately, it cannot be ignored and will certainly continue to have an impact.

Looking within the industry, the emergence of Excel has been a major contribution to venues across the UK. I think everyone expected there to be an Earls Court versus Excel battle, but Excel has proved itself to be a UK-wide phenomenon, not just in London. Staging the British International Motor Show is a prime example of this.

Excel has provided additional contemporary exhibition space. Although the Morris brothers raised the game, the capital needed a state-of-the-art, purpose-built exhibition facility.

We have also seen a shift in emphasis when it comes to the marketing of venues. They are now marketing themselves to a broader event industry - not just exhibitions.

Finally, the emergence of China, India, Russia and central Europe as alternative destinations for events is an interesting development. UK organisers are now thinking about what they can do with a brand abroad through such things as joint ventures and launches. It's very exciting that they have a positive attitude to expanding their work.

KAREN TAYLOR, managing director, Caroo Media

The opening of Excel has provided the industry with a modern, state-of-the-art facility that is able to truly compete with venues across Europe. It rivals even the most advanced exhibition venues in the German market. The facility affords organisers an alternative space to use in London, and its location near to City Airport provides an essential link to mainland Europe.

The Morris family's acquisition of Earls Court in 1999 had a dramatic impact on the events industry as a whole. Andrew Morris brought energy and drive to the entire project and continually helped to improve the venue's offering. The effect has reached far beyond the venue community and has been to the advantage of the entire exhibition sector.

BRENDA DALY, executive vice president, DMG World Media

Having been on a trip to Excel before it was completed, it was great then seeing the project come to fruition. The facility has provided a much-needed alternative London venue. At the time, shows were restricted to Earls Court or the NEC - there was nowhere else to go. Excel heightened awareness of what venues could offer customers. For many years we were told that we needed another venue and it is nice to finally see the empty space turn into a fully functioning building.

On a personal level, an element of my career that has had a huge effect on me was working at Olympia. I worked as an event manager at the venue for around 18 months and adored the building. I have known the space all my life and never tired of standing on the gallery overlooking the venue.

LYNN FELTON, director, British Exhibition Contractors Association

The sale of Earls Court by P&O in 1999 was certainly a milestone for the industry. It put entrepreneurs into the sphere of exhibition contracting, event management and event organising. It provided the required setting for people such as Guy Morgan, Simon Kimble and Andrew Morris to really get a grasp of the industry.

The emergence of temporary structures capable of holding large-scale exhibitions and events, regardless of time or location, has revolutionised the sector. In the mid-1990s manufacturers started to produce more and more technical products that could withstand all types of weather. It meant that if Earls Court or the NEC were booked it was finally possible to still stage a large-scale event in another structure.

DAVE WALLEY, chief executive, Arena Group.


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