Life goes in cycles, including exhibitions! Quite where Venues and Events Live by Square Meal is in its cycle of life is difficult to identify. Certainly not at the end of the cycle; hopefully more at the pre-Renaissance stage with great things to emerge in the future. Two influences mainly affect the cycle, innovation and the economy. (Of course there are others.)
I recall the impact of the first RSVP Show in 1999. The economy was strong and companies had money to invest. The Millennium was coming with companies and individuals expected to celebrate in style. Live events were building their profile as effective marketing tools. Arthur Somerset, founder of Mask and future ISES President, was leading a campaign for the government to raise the taxable threshold on events spend for employees.
The show was new to the marketplace and captured everyone’s imagination. Exhibitors invested heavily in their stands with some wild, whacky and engaging displays. The innovation and impact of the first RSVP show gave it great momentum for several more years creating an industry perception that it was the most worthwhile exhibition to invest in. Then it slowly declined, attracting fewer attendees and exhibitors; changing ownership until it was assumed into International Confex. It’s an unavoidable fact that the market always wants something new and exciting.
The first three Venues and Events Live picked up the RSVP torch; I’m sure both would argue they are uniquely different, however they are both trying to access similar markets. Venues and Events has certainly attempted to continually refresh its offer to remain fresh and interesting to its attendees plus working hard to attract attendees with genuine potential business for exhibitors. But in 2015, I saw a marked difference in the exhibitors and the show was clearly not sold out. Not every inch of the venue was packed with stands with a notable lack of the premier venues and event management companies. There was a large number of less expensive pod style stands featuring smaller venues with periphery suppliers and restaurants had a far greater presence. All are valuable contributors to the Meetings and Events sector but don’t bring quite the same impact.
Venues and Events Live now has the opportunity for a Renaissance. The economy is strengthening, live events are once again regaining their prominence as a marketing tool and investment in London’s property is high. The Battersea Power Station development alone has 42 acres of event space. Hence I’m fascinated to see how the Square Meal team innovate, capture and capitalise in 2016.