Which are the shows that stay in the minds of the people who exert a big
Charlotte Vidal-Hall: Deputy Editor, Conference and Incentive Travel
There are only a few main shows that conference and exhibition people
have to go to. There’s Confex, held at Earl’s Court in February, which
tends to be a bit too much UK-dominated with only maybe 30 per cent of
attendees coming from overseas.
My favourite is EIBTM, held in Geneva in May, because it’s the one that
key people can’t afford to miss. It helps that the buyers are hosted by
the airlines and hotels, but the venue is a bit smaller and more
manageable than some others, and if you talk to someone on a stand, it
tends to be the marketing person who can actually help, rather than a
hotel salesperson who may not have all the information with them.
To be honest, a lot of exhibitions seem to be as much a PR job as
anything, but there is always the impression that a lot more business is
done at EIBTM than anywhere else. As far as venues go, the best place in
this country is the NREC because it has plenty of space and the best
Ilse Crawford: Editor, Elle Decoration
I go to as many exhibitions and trade shows as I can, but until recently
the general standard of British shows has lagged miles behind the
Continent. My favourite show would be the French Maison et Objets, which
seems to be a very well thought out and organised presentation of modern
furniture and accessories. In general, my biggest complaint would be
that the shows are not edited well enough - people should be looking to
the shows to set their own agenda and to use some genuine vision, rather
than just presenting as many exhibitors as they can. That said, there
have been pockets of improvement in the UK - 100 Per Cent Design seems
extremely well edited and it’s only two years old, while a bigger show
like Decorex has now started to show a sharper focus.
As far as the venues are concerned, its finally getting through to
organisers that they have to start offering half decent areas. There are
certain facilities that an exhibition must have - it’s nice if the loos
aren’t leaking and they put out the odd chair for you, but the fact is
that too many British venues are sleazy. I do think that there is a
terrific lost opportunity here. In an ideal world, exhibitions should be
visionary, they should be agenda-setting. There is, after all, the
opportunity to create excitement and energy, and the challenge for the
exhibition companies is to create exhibitions that are more than the sum
of their parts. In this country something like 100 Per Cent Design at
least has the potential to do that. There is still some way to go before
we can return to the excitement of shows of the past, however - shows
like those held in Paris in the 20s where taste turned a corner and
modernism was embraced. Certainly if I were trying to put together my
ideal exhibition, I would make vision the most important thing.
Richard Benson: Editor, The Face
What has really stood out for me from the few exhibitions I’ve been to
this year was the Alexander McQueen show during London Fashion Week. The
venue, in the Royal Horticultural Halls, was well chosen and a bit
different from the run of the mill stuff. But what I most liked about it
was that the whole exhibition played about with your preconceptions of
what it was going to be. That seems to me the biggest challenge in these
exhibitions which are otherwise just routine diary dates. They put a
catwalk down the middle of the hall and instead of having the models
walk on carpet or whatever, made them wade through a six inch tray of
water. As they walked the water ruined their dresses.What made it
special was the idea of a designer being prepared to ruin his clothes.
It made you feel like you were part of something really special.
Peter Kerwin: Editor, Computing
Exhibitions and related conferences are a pretty important part of the
IT marketing mix and, as such, are important for us editorially. Some of
them, however, swamp journalists with their sheer size.
I’ll only go to about two or three a year, but they would include Comdex
in Las Vegas, which takes place in an exhibition space the size of
Estonia, but which is necessary by virtue of its completeness. Every
major manufacturer and supplier in the world is represented there.
There is a trend, noticeable in this country now, towards bigger and
bigger exhibitions, but nothing yet on that kind of scale.
Information technology is such a fast-moving business that people like
to be able to gather in the corridors in these things and hammer out a
consensus, so big is better.
In my calender, a crucial event is Networks, the largest IT show in the
UK. A growing event, the last Networks boasted 30,000 people working at
the cutting-edge of technology.
Another exhibition favourite of mine is the IDC Forum in Paris, which is
part conference as well, and so can also be the source of good-quality
It also serves as a chance to see some of the state-of-the-art
developments and to get to talk to people that for reasons of geography
or time, you are not always able to get to see.
Charles Skinner: Editor, Management Today
The fact is that there is no single conference or exhibition that
attracts the captains of industry that we would want to talk to. My
constituency comprises the chairmen and chief executives of companies
and they tend to dip in and out of conferences rather than attend for
the duration, and there is no single event that regularly gathers a good
proportion of them. You tend to be surprised by a one-off such as this
year’s Department of Trade and Industry Innovation Lecture. For some
reason, it was full of the great and the good, all doubtless wondering
how they had managed to end up together at one of these things. Tony
Blair’s 1 per cent club evening for people who had given 1 per cent to
charity was another such. But because management is such a disparate
discipline, there are not enough exhibitions and conferences that can
cover the subject matter and attract enough of great management to
be really worthwhile.