Research file: Raising the event bar

Fresh research from the AEO indicates an increasingly professional industry moving steadily into more niche sectors. Mike Fletcher assesses the trends.

Exhibitions that offer seminars, associated conferences, learning and networking opportunities are currently doing better than the old-style 'throw the doors open and leave the visitors and exhibitors to fend for themselves' events. This is just one of the observations on the state of the industry gauged by a recent poll carried out by the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO).

The industry trade body asked three companies for their take on current business practices. Registration services firm Interchange Communications, research outfit Farrugia Leo and business brokers Media-Mergers voiced collective optimism that the industry has finally 'woken up to the challenges it faces.'

Interchange Communications operations director Philip Vann recognises a steady move to smaller niche events while a growing number of trade show organisers are encouraging full contact between visitors and exhibitors before and after the event. "Those that offer a fuller exhibitor and visitor experience are the ones that will ultimately succeed," he says. "We will see the continuation of an increaseing number of regional events aimed at a smaller, highly targeted local market."

Farrugia Leo director Sarah Farrugia has noticed, from the research she has been commissioned to undertake, increased levels of professionalism.

"The work we do now is at a far more strategic level compared to two or three years ago. This includes research into special interest groups, understanding partnerships and attracting long-term event partners," she says.

Farrugia also stresses that her clients have a stronger desire to know where live marketing fits in to exhibitors' marketing plans.

Media-Mergers, a broker of businesses that specialise in exhibitions and magazine publishing, claims that these two sectors are moving closer together and, in some cases, combining. Managing director Martin Wright notes: "Publishers of magazines have become much more market facing, adding events, seminars and other revenue streams to those of advertising and subscriptions."

Wright illustrates this trend with the example of organiser ITE, which purchased fashion industry magazine publisher RAS Publishing to support its Moda UK and Moda Menswear fashion exhibitions. "Such integration is often made to protect and help develop the events side of a company's activities, particularly if the shows are niche, as most new launches appear to be these days," he says.

Wright goes on to say that consumer show are booming, with public events returning strong visitor attendances and exhibitor revenues. Vann agrees: "Organisers can no longer be accused of having a mentality of merely selling tickets and doing a rough head-count. There is much more focus now on trade-style registration and recording leads from consumer shows.

"The generation of databases within public events that conform to both ABC and Data Protection requirements is becoming big business," Vann continues.

"This will enable public event organisers to cross-sell other events to an audience that they already know is likely to attend. This reduces marketing costs and increases event attendance."

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