The trade fair is dead. Discuss.

tradestandsI have attended a lot of trade fairs, and run a few, and they generally consist of exhibition stands, ranging from 2x1m to 20x20m in one or many spaces, often with shellscheme to clearly divide each space. Businesses or traders pay for the space as a means to sell products and/or promote their brand. There are often networking or seminar sessions as well to add more value.  There is a complex balance between space available, number of traders/exhibitors and the price per stand to make it financially viable.

There are two main problems:

– it’s not just the cost of the stand but also the materials, the giveaways and the staff time that means making the most of the opportunity racks up a significant budget requirement

– competitors can attend and gain all the same benefits of networking and promoting their brand for the cost of a ticket which is often free.

So it seems that increased cost and free entry for all presents a case that the trade fair is no longer viable….

Or is it?

Exhibiting means greater brand presence and an opportunity to demonstrate your products or services. It often means access to exhibitor only networking too and potentially presenting a seminar to demonstrate one’s knowledge and experience.

But to make the most of your stand and really activate the brand does take a bit more effort and potentially cost. You might need to design the space you have very carefully, create new promotional material and exhibition/information boards and you might need to train your team in promoting the brand.

The challenge is that for small businesses the cost in terms of time and money and the ease of access by competitors often means that exhibiting is simply not affordable. So for rural areas a trade fair potentially excludes up to 95% of local businesses meaning that the content of the event is focused on larger enterprises.

That could be exactly what is wanted but perhaps this conundrum lays down a gauntlet to trade fair organisers (ourselves included) to craft and curate trade fair experiences that are affordable, viable and most importantly, enjoyable, creating positive impact for all involved. This is where a ‘corporate’ event becomes a creative challenge and whilst the traditional model is perhaps dead and buried, we have a great opportunity to evolve something new!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

Can You Help?

Our friends at Climate Vision need your help with a Crowdfunder campaign … over to them to give some more details on what’s involved and what it’s for …

“In 2009, the Footsteps Project took place where networks of climate activists and scientists in Truro delivered a behavioural change campaign to support local and national delegates involved in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15). We asked individuals and communities to think about the carbon cost of their lifestyle and to pledge easy and realistic carbon cutting actions. In only four months, the campaign enabled 4488 individuals and organisations to adopt low-carbon and sustainable behaviours such as buying local, saving energy or researching climate change.
We are now looking to calculate the carbon cost of our campaign in order to show to COP21 delegates that behavioural strategy solutions can be effective to achieve carbon reduction targets. We also want to show that they can compete with risky and more expensive technology such as carbon storage and capture. Finally the carbon cutting pledges added value to the local economy, building resilience and enabled communities to engage with climate change.
To make this happen we need your help. We aim to raise £5k through a Crowd funder that started May 1st, half will go on data analysis to provide a Cost Per Tonne, half on publicity and getting the story from Cornwall to Paris.
We would also like to invite you to visit our Crowd Funder page to pledge to help and be a part of this solution.


If you want to hear Sundays BBC Radio Cornwall interview, listen in at 2hr 28 mins in http://bbc.in/1KUXn8Q Many thanks”

Digital treat anyone?

So our first Thrive sessions have started in Bath and, as is often the case, we are learning as much as we are leading the training.  So we have come up with the programme following training needs analysis and we come up with the content for the sessions….we then run the sessions and we always try to tailor the sessions to the people who are there so it’s really applicable and relevant.  However, this agile approach is also a recognition that we don’t have all the answers (and neither should we) but we facilitate that sharing of knowledge and experience within the group to find solutions.

So within this context, I ran the Audience Development session with additional input from Jim Brewster at The Audiences Agency. We covered various areas from strategic relevance to practical how to, from application of data analysis to value propositions and then we started talking digital….and at this point, Jim introduced us to the principle of “digital treats”.

I love this idea that social media and user generated content provides such digital treats that might be photographs taken at an event or comments or films or anything really that connects the digital and the live worlds.  The concept of hybrid events is becoming mainstream and even if it’s just having a social media presence, digital is featuring in almost every event the world over.  And from an audience development perspective, this offers a fantastic opportunity to engage people wherever they are and provide a range of reasons for them to want to be involved.

As a sector, we only get better at what we do by collaborating and sharing practice – I am so looking forward to learning more in this Thrive Bath programme.

Shoulders back, clear the throat ….

lecternI have just been at the Association of Event Management Education conference where I presented a paper (for the first time in my life and it went well – phew!) and one of the keynotes by Professor Colin Beard talked about the human experience, particularly of learning.  In his keynote, Professor Beard went beyond the usual Maslow hierarchy or Kolb learning cycle and talked about engaging all the senses in the teaching and learning process.

So, we all have our inner and outer worlds and there is, quite rightly, a barrier between the two although they overlap at times.  In order for us to learn, there are five stages of progression into that inner world –

  1. Belonging – being part of something more than us, perhaps a social group or a university class
  2. Doing – active learning by undertaking something practical
  3. Sensing – engaging all the senses and thereby engaging more of the potential of the human brain
  4. Feeling – engaging our emotions and thereby our commitment and support
  5. Knowing – developing a body of knowledge held within us and the confidence that goes with it

Past the knowledge stage, we reach becoming and being which is a state of confidence and capability where we are able to apply knowledge to move forwards.  It’s probably better explained with an example.  So consider a university student on an events course (and here I am just thinking of the academic process):

  1. They already ‘belong’ to their course cohort.
  2. We (tutors) engage them in practical activity perhaps volunteering or running their own events.
  3. We support reflection on that experience in terms of what they saw, heard, felt, smelt etc. (and maybe even create sensory experiences in our teaching but that’s another subject)
  4. The student begins to attribute emotional responses e.g. I enjoyed it, or didn’t and self evaluate in considering their strengths and weaknesses
  5. With academic content, they start to build a body of knowledge supported by experience
  6. The student builds their capability, becoming more confident and the learning becomes embedded in their practice (and subsequently increases their sense of belonging to that group and we come full circle)

Well that’s what’s supposed to happen!  I can see that it does in many ways and I think that this model presents some significant challenges in terms of how we engage and support students and also how we create and design events that engage our target markets.  Considering my portfolio, this is particularly relevant for the Bridgwater Way project where we are trying to change behaviour and encourage more to cycle and walk to school, work and for leisure. The events programme is part of creating stages 2 – 4 from which the specialists can pick up, share knowledge and build a local community of cyclists.   So the design of the events needs to offer something to do, something that engages all the senses and then engages their emotions (positively) for the Summer Festival (19th July, Blake Gardens 1 – 4pm), we have taken this on board so we have a wide range of activities including cycle obstacle course, fastest tyre change challenge, Bike Build-Off etc; we have passive engagement including music and  circus entertainment; we have food & drink including the Smoothie Bike; All of which is designed to create smiles on faces, engaging those positive feelings about the project and about cycling and walking from which the information stands and specialists can share knowledge……and after all that we are keeping our fingers crossed that this model really works and enables attendees to become confident cyclists or walkers, to undertake active travel more frequently and to become an advocate for it.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

About to be out of my comfort zone … and excited to be so

pennine-smlI confess I am a little scared. In fact, a lot scared. At the beginning of July, I am presenting an academic paper at the Association of Event Management Education conference in Sheffield and I have never done this before.  I have never had to present my academic research before and certainly not to this kind of audience!  I am speaking on the same stage as some of the greats of event management academia – Glenn Bowdin, Joe Goldblatt, Dr Elling Hamso…. – and I am a little scared!

If I think about it rationally, I know that my research is good, that the subject is interesting and that I am a confident presenter so it will all be fine.  I also recognise that it is good to push the boundaries sometimes and push myself to be better and aim higher. But then the imposter syndrome looms….I fear that one day they will find out that it’s just me and inside, I am about 14 years old, not a grown up at all, and certainly not anyone who has answers.

I think this is because I have never thought of myself being on that stage, being up there with those academics and event managers, but I am arrogant enough to believe that I am good enough to be there and that they are actually my peers.  Sometimes, we are so focussed on our work, that we don’t step away from it to see how much we have achieved.  So, I am using my presentation at the AEME conference to take that step away, recognise that actually I am a grown up now and have every right to be proud of what I have achieved.

I am not sharing this for a pat on the back and an ego boost. I am sharing this because I know I am not alone in feeling like this, torn between being chuffed to bits and a little petrified of taking that step onto that stage to be seen in that light. I am sharing this because it is good to be a little scared and to push one’s own boundaries. So wish me luck!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

A New Horizon

AmyWeeks

This will be my first and last post for Mackerel Sky Events. After 5 fantastic years with the company, over 150 individual events (give or take), and countless rolls of gaffa tape, I’m hanging up my clipboard and hi-vis jacket and moving on to pastures new. 

It was perhaps very appropriate that the last event I delivered was called Event Horizons: a conference designed especially for current and aspiring event managers to explore new developments in the industry and to share their best practice. The range of speakers and topics covered showcased everything that is fantastic about the industry, and its ability to continue to adapt to reach audiences and markets in ever changing ways.

Taking time to reflect on the event, I realised what inspired me most were the students that attended from the Creative Events Management degree at Falmouth University. These individuals have made the decision to study an emerging craft and develop the skills to become successful professionals in the industry, and as a Visiting Lecturer on this course, I fully recognise the importance of getting to grips with the building blocks of event knowledge and how they can be put into practice. I’m also a firm believer that getting work experience, building your network of contacts and establishing your personal brand are key to getting your foot in the door of a highly competitive industry, by finding ways to set yourself apart from the crowd.

For my first project with Event Cornwall, I sat in a drafty foyer to man the promotional stand for a local music festival. It was far from the glamorous image of the industry that I had in my head – there were no celebrities, no champagne passed my lips, and there was definitely no sign of a VIP section – but looking back that was my opportunity to get my foot in the door and I seized that opportunity with both hands. I believe that success in the industry is born out of commitment and drive, and the ability to throw yourself into a new challenge with unwavering passion and enthusiasm, and that’s what I hope I’ve done over the last 5 years of incredible projects.

So what advice would I have given to my younger self, a fledging projects co-ordinator starting out in the world of event management, or to those students who are about to graduate into such a competitive industry? I think I’d have to say the following:

1. Seize every opportunity with both hands as you never know where it may lead you – the most rewarding projects and experiences I’ve had have been from unexpected opportunities, and it’s a fantastic way to continue to develop your skills in areas you hadn’t considered before.

2. Network – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but networking is far and above the best way to make valuable connections. It’s been said many times, but people buy from people, and some of the most productive working relationships I’ve developed started with a 5 minute conversation at a networking event. Be brave and start that conversation.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s the best way to learn from those around you, and find out how things are really done in the industry. But it’s a two way street and be prepared to share your knowledge. Conversations to discuss best practice and share advice on ‘how best to…’ in the industry are a invaluable part of the learning process, and have taught me far more than I could ever have learnt on my own.

Take time out to stand back and view your work – you invest incredible amounts of time and energy in bringing an event idea to life, so take the time to stand back and admire the concept that you’ve made into a reality. Irrespective of scale and budget, whether large or small, you’ve poured sweat and tears into the event, and you should take an opportunity to reflect on this. Admire your hard work and the success of your project, but also take the time to be critical: what did you learn from this and how could it be better next time?

Enjoy every second – I make no secret of the fact that events can be a stressful and tiring industry, but it’s rewarding, exciting and exhilarating in equal measure: make sure you enjoy every bit of it.

My new role will see a departure from events into the world of Digital Marketing, and as I throw myself into my new challenge, I’d like to think I take some of my own advice on board. The last 5 years have been an incredible journey, in which I’ve learnt so much. Thank you to Mackerel Sky Events, the team, our clients and our suppliers – it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you all.

 

Amy Weeks, Senior Event Co-ordinator, Mackerel Sky Events

 

Agile – Not Just Talking the Talk

agile004

One of the events I enjoy most in our portfolio is Agile on the Beach.  We are entering our 4th year of working on this project and about 2 years ago, we decided that we should walk the talk and adopt Agile practices ourselves.

Agile has grown out of the software development industry and not all of it works as well for service based industries like event management but there are some aspects that are really making a difference to how we work.

At a strategic level, following an agile approach means that we focus on our customers’ and clients’ needs, engaging them at every part of the project development and delivery process, listening and balancing viewpoints.  This wasn’t a big shift for us as event management is inherently conversational and rarely follows a standardised process (in our experience anyway!) but it made us recognise that the value of our service is in the relationships we have with our clients.

We also apply Agile principles in how we organise ourselves and our projects.  We have thrown out the traditional gantt chart!  We of course still plot out what we think is going to be needed but we start with the cost and timeframe and work within this to create an event which is of high quality and achieves the aims and objectives.  It means we are advisors and guides for clients who perhaps have a thought of what they want but don’t realise it is unachievable or inconsistent and Agile resonates with our responsibilities, as per the Eventia code of conduct, to ensure that we advise appropriately using our experience and knowledge to create events that are of the highest possible quality.

Agile practice means that we are constantly working to eliminate waste in our processes and product, evaluating our supply chain and service every step of the way with internal and external feedback mechanisms built in.  We always evaluate but it used to be at the end of the project and now it’s more like every day!  We have a project board in our meeting room which is populated with projects on post-it notes that move according to the stage of the process that they are in and how far they have progressed.  Agile on the Beach has just finished ‘Evaluation’ and ‘Proposal’ and is now in ‘Design’ for the 2014 conference (www.agileonthebeach.co.uk).

We have had the pleasure of working with the Agile on the Beach team to develop our approach (particularly Mike, Toby, Allan and Belinda) and it is great to really learn from our clients, to understand why they are so passionate about this way of working and to develop a way of working that is impacting on our productivity and profitability.

 

Claire Eason-Bassett, Managing Director Mackerel Sky Events