Event Director, The Meetings Show UK
The first Meetings Show UK, a hosted-buyer trade show and conference owned by Centaur Exhibitions, took place July 9-11 at London's Olympia West convention facility. The three-day event drew 3,600 visitors and 355 exhibitors, with nearly 200 education sessions. While there, M&C's senior editor Lisa A. Grimaldi spoke with the show's director, Steve Knight, an industry veteran who served as project manager for the launch of Reed Travel Exhibition's inaugural AIBTM show in 2009.
Why launch yet another hosted-buyer show for the meetings industry?
Centaur Exhibitions identified a need for a hosted-buyer show for a market the size of the U.K. [which generates US$87 billion in meetings business, according to the MPI Foundation's U.K. Economic Impact Study].
What makes this show unique?
We created two advisory boards. One for the trade show and the other for education. We also contacted planners from our database to find out what they wanted to learn about most, and they told us health care and medical meetings, sustainability and technology, to name a few; in all, we offered 190 sessions.
Is the show just for U.K. buyers?
No, we have a good number from Europe. We had a few planners from places like the U.S. and Singapore, but we wanted to get the basics right this first year before we reach out more to buyers from long-haul destinations.
What was the best part of launching this show?
Having input. We've created something that didn't already exist and are able to shape it to what we want.
There was a discrepancy in the number of hosted buyers that was promoted and the actual number that attended. What happened?
Whilst we were initially expecting 1,500 hosted buyers, preliminary figures show some 500 attended. Many of the hosted buyers stayed for two nights, and our original plan was for them to stay for one night, so we had to rework the numbers. Despite the total number of hosted buyers not being as high as we wanted, the number of appointments made was still significantly high, with more than 6,600 being made with 355 exhibitors during the show. In total, we had more than 3,600 industry professionals through the door.
What was the downside of launching the show?
Very similar to what is best about it: Creating something from scratch! Designing the show, following budgets and creating a new database -- all difficult but ultimately rewarding.
What plans do you have for the future?
We have our dates for next year's show, July 8-10, being held again at Olympia. We plan to have more buyers and more exhibitors, and to offer more education. We wanted to get this show right, before thinking too much of expansion. You have to walk before you run.