Successful run for exhibitions

Your Special Report on the exhibitions sector carried the standfirst: “It seems that exhibitions and visitors are often low priorities for some exhibition organisers”…

Competing events in any given market sector are cited as justification for this line. It has no more validity than to suggest that competing magazines are a disservice to advertisers and readers.

Furthermore, contrary to your report, attendance figures at UK exhibitions have been rising in recent years, reflecting the continuing buoyancy of the exhibition industry. In the past three or four years, the number of shows – both trade and consumer – has grown (22 per cent increase in trade shows from 1996 to 1997); space sales have increased (by an average of seven per cent comparing 1997 to 1996), with yet higher sales reported in the first half of 1998.

Media owners and clients are increasingly seeing exhibitions as worthy and successful extensions of their brands. Exhibitor spend is increasing (849m in 1997 compared with 768m in 1996) and visitors to exhibitions are increasing (10.4 million in 1996, 10.75 million in 1997). Exhibitors are providing the Association of Exhibition Organisers with exciting case studies and the industry event, last month’s AEO Excellence Awards Luncheon, saw a rise in attendance from 550 to 850 guests when compared with 1997.

Exhibition organisers are working with venues to improve the services offered to exhibitors and visitors and the exhibition industry is more committed to attendance auditing than is the case with other forms of media.

Many of the major players are viewing exhibitions as increasingly significant in providing the returns their shareholders demand and the smaller independents are successfully serving their markets. All players are well aware that exhibitors and visitors will vote with their feet if events are not meeting their expectations. What’s more, organisers are starting to spend large sums on exhibitor training and industry research.

And another thing. The AEO membership is growing rapidly, with its members being passionately committed to the mission “to increase the significance of exhibitions within the marketing mix and to satisfy the needs of an increasing number of visitors”. If statistics suggest that trade show attendances are falling, this is a reflection of the evolution of events from trade to public or trade/public.

Big names in the world of magazine publishing, such as David Arculus (IPC chairman elect) and Terry Mansfield (National Magazine Company) are enthusiastically embracing exhibitions.

Trevor Foley

Director

Association of Exhibition Organisers

London SW1

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