How has the show been so far this year?
For me the show has gone really well. We’re in a new room this year, which I think has injected a different atmosphere to the show. Over the last 11 months we’ve worked hard to expand our offering and I think people have reacted well. There was a 10% increase in visitor numbers on the first day of the show.
This year the Meetings Show will clash with the England/Wales Euro 2016 football match. Will you be closing the show early?
We won’t be closing early, as we’ve been screening all the games in our football lounge. The Meetings Show clashes with the big game today, which ideally we would have avoided. However, we’re setting up the lounge again and the food station in there will be converted into a bar for anyone who wants to watch the game.
What’s changed this year?
Firstly, we’ve changed the room within the venue, which I think has improved the layout and feel of the show. Every year we’re trying to boost the number of hosted buyers from the UK. This year we have 57% buyers from the UK, which is the highest percentage we’ve ever had.
We’ve hosted more than 80 education sessions, including two new streams on marketing and branding and leadership and management. We choose education sessions based on what we think is most relevant to the industry - issues like security and politics.
Our most popular session has been on Brexit. Another really popular session was ‘are we doing enough to grow the UK’s share of international events?' I think there’s a big focus on bringing events to the UK.
How do you feel the EU referendum is affecting the show or the wider industry?
We’ve been speaking to a lot of our exhibitors about Brexit. The thing is, the UK meetings and events market is so important to other European countries. I can’t see that a Brexit would have a major impact on the show itself, as people will always want to work with the British market. That said, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty right now and it’s affecting inbound traffic to Britain as people wait to find out what’s happening. If we decide on a 'leave' vote I think it’s likely to affect the wider events industry, particularly in the short term. There’ll be a temporary slowdown in the industry as we readjust.
In such a fast-paced, tech-driven world, do you feel there’s still a future for the traditional, hosted-buyer trade show model?
I think there will always be a market for face-to-face events like this, where people can learn, network and have the meetings they need. We’re creating something for everyone in the UK meetings industry and it’s what the market is looking for.
That said, I think the impact of digital is huge and in the coming years, we’ll see much more integration. For example, live streaming of education sessions, digital interaction, more use of apps and social media. Face-to-face won’t go away. We just plan to continue providing what the industry wants, with meetings, networking time and carefully tailored, relevant education sessions.
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