CONFERENCES AND EXHIBITIONS: The editors’ favourite exhibition

Which are the shows that stay in the minds of the people who exert a big influence?

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.


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