What 5 things do Exhibitions need to change to get trust back? by James Caldwell – Managing Director, innov8 Conference Services Ltd
February 29, 2016
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Before I start, I’m not putting innov8 or indeed myself on a pedestal here, I am a member of ABPCO (the Association of British Professional Congress Organisers) and believe that in our industry there are some fantastic companies and individuals at creating events, not just innov8. I also do believe now and have always believed that events are the best form of Marketing in the world. Honestly, no other form of Marketing can get you in front of so many genuine customers in a single day.

I was asked by a friend of mine, what did I think was wrong with Exhibitions in our current market and it sparked a long and frenzied debate. In truth, it’s our fault (the Events Industry). We’ve been unable to separate the professional events from the fly-by-night events which pop-up all over the UK. Events with impossible to achieve delegate numbers and impossible to achieve Return on Investment (ROI) numbers.

If we are to host successful Exhibitions in our industry, I believe as a Professional these are the 5 things that we need to make sure we change to ensure we continue to be seen as the best form of Marketing in an ever changing world.

1. Stop lying about attendee numbers

This is my number one issue, stop lying to people, the number of Exhibitions I’ve seen where their attendee figures aren’t audited but yet claim can bring thousands of people into a venue that barely holds 300 is ridiculous. I often task my team to promise only what they can guarantee, if you go over that number that’s fantastic. If you can’t hit that delegate number, you are just going to have a lot of disappointed people. I’m fed up of seeing emails hitting my inbox promising 2,000 visitors, where in reality they will be lucky to get 200.

2. Make it easier for Exhibitors to get ROIs

Price is an issue, whilst running an Exhibition comes at a cost, we have to help Exhibitors get an ROI from their Exhibition Stand. If your Exhibitors need to make 20-30 sales in a 300 person event just to break even, then your pricing your stands up wrong.

3. Help your Exhibitors

An Exhibition is often like a busy shopping centre, something a lot of companies are not used to being in. Help your Exhibitors to get the most out of their stands, give them advice, convince them to bring marketing material and do games on the stand. As an event organiser we are constantly trying to create a fantastic atmosphere, in Exhibitions this is created by the Exhibitors themselves. Run training workshops for free in the run up to the event to help Exhibitors to get some ideas on what does and doesn’t work.

4.Stop breaking down early

Something every Exhibition struggles with, it’s an hour to go and the first pop-up goes down, and it starts a ripple effect through the Exhibition with teams convincing themselves that the show is all but over and they can beat the traffic. We’ve put contractual terms into our Exhibitions that if an Exhibitor breaks down early, then there are consequences which include losing the opportunity to be at future innov8 events. A lot of visitors feedback to us that they think Exhibitors who break down early, force them to leave early as they feel uncomfortable.

5. Be Professional

I started this out by saying I don’t think innov8 is the flag bearer of our industry, I do think however, as a Professional Congress Organiser we are in the top 10% and joined by some fantastic companies who are able to create some truly amazing events. However being professional means more than just looking smart, it means keeping proper records, having the correct Event Insurance (you wouldn’t believe how many events are not insured), risk assessments, contingency plans and everything else that goes on behind the scenes that most people don’t see. The best events do everything as a Professional and you can see the huge difference it makes to an event.


    James Caldwell is the Managing Director of innov8 Conference Services Ltd.

innov8 Conference Services have now assisted 100's of International and National Conferences and Exhibitions with over 350,000 attendees from over 90 different countries around the world. innov8 Conference Services has built a reputation producing successful events and this attitude has led innov8 to assist some of the largest Conferences in the UK.