The exhibitions industry has changed significantly during my near 30 years in the business. From a “build it and they will come” attitude, we’re now enjoying a competitive industry where flexibility and the ability to move with the times are crucial to meet customers’ high expectations and demands and ensure ROI for exhibitors.
How a venue brings added value to the party has long been a contentious debate, with organisers adopting the full spectrum of views of how the relationship works from the venue playing the role of a simple supplier providing an empty shell, to an active partner making a key contribution to strategic decision making.
A number of venues have former organisers occupying key roles in their teams, recognising the fact that they need to think in their customers’ shoes. That approach can provide greater insight, helping venues to adapt their ways of working to better connect with the customer.
There has always been a conflict between venues and organisers, mostly around the thorny issues of profile and price. Profile management through a fair and transparent process ultimately creates opportunities. Price on the other hand is all about value, and value, as we all know, is sometimes hard to appreciate!
Collaboration is the key to resolving this natural tension. Venues want the same thing as organisers - successful events with built in longevity, satisfied exhibitors, and happy visitors determined to return.
Venues are now far more aware of their ‘brand values’ and organisers should tap into all sources of information for use in their own marketing material. Different venues offer different strengths. NEC branding for instance, on an event that wants to claim a national audience, makes a declaration of intent that the event is important because it’s taking place in the national venue.
Venues can often help in providing market intelligence and insight too. Traditionally this has been geared towards supporting consumer shows, but marketing insight in the B2B environment is a growing capability, offered as added value to the ‘standard’ halls package you might expect.
Ultimately, the customer experience is everything. Venues that work hard to understand their customer journeys - including their organisers, exhibitors, contractors and visitors – and that seek ways in which to create a better sense of welcome and on-site experience, are more inclined to win the customer retention battle.
Organisers can also play their part and take more care in understanding contractual and commercial arrangements with venues. Long terms commitments offer security to both parties, but venue contracts need proper attention and should be dealt with in good time.
If we can collaborate successfully then really only two conversations should matter; that we as venues can grow your business, and that we can help deliver and retain more visitors.
Is anything more important?
NEC Sales Director
The NEC, Birmingham, B40 1NT
T: 0121 767 2490