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

Professionalism should never be underrated

Sometimes it is only when one is working with people who are unprofessional that one realises what being professional is all about. I have tried to define this a number of times but fail to find a definition that works completely.

Is it about wearing a suit? Sometimes

Is it about complying with industry standards? Yes but so much more

Is it about being paid to do a job? Not necessarily

Is it about knowing it all? Definitely not!

Is it about paying attention? Yes

Is it about caring about the quality of your work? Yes I think so

Is it about how other people define you? Important perspective but not vital

Perhaps if we look at those we consider to be professional we can get a clearer picture of this. David Cameron? Richard Branson? Karen Brady? We might not like them or agree with them but I think all are professional in their fields. More locally, I look at people like Toby Parkins, Sarah Trethowan, Allyson Glover, Michael Rabone and Simon Tregoning who are consummate professionals in their fields. Successful, yes but also have integrity. They always get back to you when they say they will. They don’t belittle the new emerging talent in their industries, but rather foster it. When you meet with any of them, they pay you full attention. They are honest and believe in what they do wholeheartedly.

And I think most of all, true professionals are those who rise above the challenge of working with those who are difficult, obstreperous, stressed, thwarted and encumbered, to focus on achieving objectives and creating positive impact in all they do. Importantly, they also recognise that sometimes we fail and that this is ok so we learn from it and move on. Professional people find a balance between not taking things personally but taking valid points on board and they are brilliant at managing and developing the people they work with, partly by setting a good example and partly by recognising their own strengths and weaknesses.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events homepage

New is Good For You

Steve JobsI attended the AEME conference hosted By Mackerel Sky’s Claire this week and had the privilege of sitting in on a key note speech by Dr Jen Otter Bickerdike. The conference, and Jen’s talk, was themed ‘Creative Risk’.

I really liked the sound of those two words together despite the fact they could be seen as polar opposites; one suggesting innovation and excitement whilst the other, well, scares the living hell out of most of us.

Google tells me that ‘risk’ literally means “a situation involving exposure to danger”. This alone is terrifying – why on earth would anyone willingly expose themselves to danger?! ‘Creative’ means ‘To use imagination or form new ideas’. So for me, the two words together are a perfect union and bring about a whole new meaning, that is; Embark on the new. New thinking. New action.

It is not a revelation that new is what drives business forward. New is what makes sales happen, connections form, careers develop, businesses start and grow. Every new step is arguably a risk, moving from the comfort of where you currently are to where you haven’t been before with absolutely no guarantee that things will work out (oh hi danger part!) But what Jen outlined in her speech is what is key here – Things don’t work out… ‘as you planned’ but they always, always work out. The risk becomes then a challenge to trust that the new will leads you to places you simply can’t imagine… and that’s ok. What’s the worst that can happen?

There is a youtube clip that made a real impression on me a few years ago and inspired me to take a significant risk in my career and personal life. It’s a fifteen minute video of the late Steve Jobs addressing Stanford University at their graduation ceremony. He speaks of, amongst other wonderful things, how the worst things that happened to him in in his career (*getting fired by apple) led to his greatest achievements (*starting Pixar… and then being re-employed by Apple!) He talks of how you can’t connect the dots between events in life looking forward, only looking back – and I love that. I bet there are situations or experiences you can look back on now and say ‘wow that was painful/risky at the time but my god I’m glad it happened because it lead me here’. Maybe you met someone, started something, did something amazing as a result of that experience.

Taking a risk is scary. Risk is putting yourself, your ideas, your business out there. The danger is fear of the world rejecting or criticising you, or it all going wrong. But what if we viewed risk creativity and realised that staying the same could actually be more dangerous to us either personally or to our businesses. What if we take away the concept of fear (the danger) and see risk as a creative action to invite new experiences and opportunities into our lives and trust that it will lead us to places we simply can’t imagine.

Taking a risk doesn’t have to be as grand as starting Pixar but it can be something that puts you out of your comfort zone. Writing this, my first ever blog post to go up on my new employers website, is utterly terrifying but this is my new, my risk. SO, here’s the challenge for you today – do something that scares you and put yourself out there; pick up the phone to your dream client, send that press release, go to that networking event you’ve been putting off. Take a risk. Be creative. Somewhere along the line we may realise, when we look back to connect the dots in our lives and careers, that the ‘dots’ are in fact when we’ve taken creative risks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

 

Joey Hulin, Business Development Manager

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With a Bit of Healthy Competition!

rushI just watched Rush, the story of two fierce competitors, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Both very different characters competing beyond excellence. Their competition was before I was even a twinkle and yet their story has really resonated with me.

Both excellent formula one drivers in the 70s for very different reasons – one a technician, a perfectionist, the other a passionate risk taker. Both confident in their abilities and capacity to develop and handle a fast car in (almost) any conditions. In 1976, at the German Grand Prix, Lauda had an extraordinary accident with deep facial burns and no-one thought he would race again. James Hunt continued through the season and won enough points to contend for the world championship. It was watching James Hunt win those points that got Lauda through numerous surgeries and back on to the track in only 6 weeks! At the end of that season, Lauda is head to head with Hunt for the championship…..a deep competitive spirit between these two individuals.

Towards the end of the film, after Hunt has won the world championship, they meet and Lauda says to Hunt to get back into training so that he has someone to compete against.

The point is that we don’t want to beat our competitors, but rather have competition who is worthy of beating! Good competition means that we all do our best, work our hardest, fulfil our potential and achieve great things….so bring on the competition!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

What’s Your Luxury?

crownOne of the current exhibits at the V&A museum is ‘What Is Luxury?’ And I am fascinated by the concept of what we would each constitute as luxurious.

Maybe it’s about investment of time as much as money. I know that for me, time to myself is an incredible gift. As is spending a small fortune on a dress that I might wear four times. Or it might be the incredible skill and expertise in the creation of a gold pocket watch. We often think of luxury as being expensive and it often is, but it is relative to our earnings, background, ethics etc. What I perceive as luxurious will be different to yours but that doesn’t make it any less or more valuable.

In business particularly, time is also a currency of sorts and can be very expensive! Think about the amount of money that a meeting costs in terms of staff salaries, room hire, catering….let alone the time that could be spent on other aspects of work that directly generate income. So are we getting the maximum benefit from our time? Is wasting time a luxury that we can’t afford?

Perhaps it is but I would argue that what might be perceived as wasting time for one is a productive informal chat with a colleague whilst making a cup of tea. So it becomes about how we value our time and manage it as a resource that has a cash value against it. Think about what is most important to you. And how much time do you spend doing that?

And remember that it is not just about what you spend your time doing but are you the best person to be doing it? Is it your strength? Is it your interest? Perhaps there is someone out there who can enable you to focus on what you are good at by looking after the stuff that you don’t actually need to do. Those tasks where you don’t actually add any value but it costs in time that could be spent on delivering your product or service.

It might even feel a little luxurious to be building a team, or handing over the accounts, or letting someone help you with your admin, but what is the cost of not doing it?

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

It’s all about Kernow right now …

poldark

With all eyes on Cornwall following the premiere of Poldark on Sunday, we are mindful of our roots in this most beloved of places. We started in Cornwall and we remain firmly based here although we have now expanded across the country and internationally. We happily adopt the contemporary Cornish outlook of being ambitious and creative, outward focused and valuing our heritage, being part of our communities and taking a shared responsibility for our economy, environment and people.

None of these qualities are exclusively Cornish of course but they are crucial to how we work, wherever we are.  With St Piran’s Day just behind us, we have been celebrating the best of those qualities the world over from Kernow In The City, led by Louis Eliot in London, to town processions across Cornwall and to pasty festivals in Mexico, Australia and South Africa.

Whilst Poldark may celebrate our mining heritage and the Cornwall of fiction, there are thousands of people employed in and leading new business sectors – software development, pharmaceuticals, digital marketing, creative industries, renewable energy – right here in deepest, darkest Kernow. Cornwall is not a place of the past and nor is it just a summer holiday. We also have one of the highest rates of start up businesses in the world. Over 90% of Cornish businesses are small and medium size enterprises, demonstrating what a hotbed this place is for innovation and new ideas.

Cornwall Business Fair in May will be one of the best places to see all of these great businesses on show, as well as see what the duchy has to offer beyond the TV, beyond the buckets and spades. We are delighted to be part of the team delivering the Fair at the Eden Project and we have the privilege of working with a vast number of these brilliant businesses and entrepreneurial business leaders.

So if you’ve been inspired by Poldark, maybe come and see more and find your real Cornwall….and whilst you’re here, pop in for a cuppa!

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

We Tread A Fine Line Between Stress and Pressure

Stressed businessmanFeeling stressed? Epic to do list and no end in sight?

Stress is endemic in our industry with constantly high (and increasing) expectations of clients and attendees as well as the need to be great at everything and deliver amazing experiences on a budget of 20p. Let alone any personal challenges that might come into play.

It is important to recognise the difference between pressure and stress – pressure is what enables to work quickly to meet a deadline or step up to take responsibility whereas stress is a destructive force that is counter-productive. Pressure drives efficiency and effectiveness; stress can make us flap!

More importantly, stress can erode our mental wellbeing and lead to any number of mental health issues including depression and anxiety so we have to face up to how it impacts on us individually and collectively. We as organisations need to support our people in creating a workspace and workflow that is productive, adaptable to individual needs, flexible and can accommodate the challenges and changes within our work. As leaders and managers of teams, we need to flex to accommodate the personal stuff. And individually we need to recognise the symptoms and impacts of stress on ourselves and those around us.

It’s not just our industry either – it’s everywhere. Any job, any context, anybody. And we all need to do something about it. We can start by talking openly about mental health issues and creating a culture where it is ok to struggle and ask for help. Two of our third year Creative Events Management students at Falmouth University are taking the lead on this, particularly in the context of higher education, and they are running a smile appeal followed by a conference for their third year final assessment.

Ben and Hannah both have personal experience of the challenges of mental health and the stigma around it and they want to help fellow students to recognise it and do something about it. The Smile Appeal will run for a week and will engage over 20 other students in running activity and promoting the campaign, which will hopefully in turn generate interest from the 4000+ students at the Penryn and Falmouth campuses. For Ben and Hannah, it’s not about being ‘woe is me’ but rather having fun with it, making it acceptable and opening up conversations.

They are following the Smile Appeal week with a one day conference targeted at health and education organisations and practitioners as well as students. These guys are nothing if not ambitious! The point is that they really want to help others and this is not just a single project. They are crafting this project into a saleable service for other universities and higher education institutions to buy in. It’s all on a social enterprise basis and has the potential to be a truly viable business.

We need more of this to make our world less stressful and more productive, more enjoyable. So good luck Hannah and Ben – let’s make the world a better place!

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky