Putting on a trade show the size, scope and ambition of EventIt – with just a handful of core staff to keep the literally thousands of moving parts all from crashing into one another – is enough to the push even the most hardened events professional close to the edge.
Judith Wilson, Show Director, has not quite reached that point, fortunately, but as the show approaches she is understandably in touch with the very visceral hopes and fears of pulling off an industry showcase event, at Glasgow’s SEC Centre, on March 9th. “Let’s just say I feel a bit like I’m doing my best swan impersonation,” she says, laughing. “I’m trying to look graceful as I glide effortlessly across the water, but underneath I’m peddling like crazy to keep the whole thing moving along.”
She adds: “In truth I am very much looking forward to seeing all the exhibitors doing their thing on the day – we’ve got so many things going on, that I do think there will be something for everyone.” I speak to Judith just a week before the event is due to go ahead, and on the day EventsBase goes to print [full disclosure: EventsBase is the publishing arm of EventIt]. It has been a busy time for everyone, but it’s a tribute to Judith and the team that the show has virtually doubled in size from its first year at the EICC in Edinburgh.
Located for 2017 in Glasgow, the exhibitor numbers are now approaching a hundred, up from 65 in the first year, the Learning Zone has doubled in size – with new speakers such as Rob Davidson and William Thomson who are active in the international events market. The focus on education, especially, is a reflection of the increasing professionalisation of the industry, a theme that recurs throughout this special show edition. There are dedicated zones at this year’s shows for the different types of suppliers who make up a very diverse industry. The technology zone features Cvent, Eventbrite and etouches, as well as eventpowwow, Simpli-Fi and Tapfuse. Abellio’s Event Connect, ScotRail (who will be putting on complimentary buses for delegates from the north of Scotland) and Rabbie’s Small Group Tours make up a transport zone of the show.
There is also a dedicated outdoor zone featuring EventScotland, Tuck Truck (a converted horsebox serving food), Titanium and the National Outdoor Event Association (NOEA), whilst team-building companies, hotels, theming and catering companies all feature. “It’s a much broader cross section of people this year,” Judith adds. “We wanted to try and represent all the different parts of the events industry because for event planners their job is so diverse. Even for corporate event planners – who you might expect would be used to organising just board meetings and such like – they are increasingly being tasked with putting on a conference, a garden party or even an incentive trip. And for agencies they are putting on different kinds of event every day. So I think the aim for EventIt is really to create a onestop- shop for all events planners to come to. I don’t think many of the trade shows I have been to really do that, or they do but they keep them separate. I don’t think that pigeonholing really works.”
Internationalisation is also a growing focus of the market, especially for the large association conference planners. Judith adds that she is grateful to VisitScotland, Convention Edinburgh, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and VisitAberdeenshire for their support for the show – and for bringing in ‘hosted buyers’ from overseas who will engage directly with Scottish venues and suppliers in the hope of bringing more business into the country. “Without their help, EventIt would not be nearly as good, and relevant, a show as I think it will be. I think hosted buyer initiatives are now absolutely crucial to the market, and it’s one of the things we are keen to develop.”
Venue finding service and event management company Conference Care is also bringing in buyers to this year’s show. “I’m really grateful to all of the organisations who are helping in that regard,” Judith adds. “Overall, the whole platform for EventIt has got a lot bigger since the first year. We have a dedicated Glasgow zone with a good number of exhibitors, fittingly seeing as we are in Glasgow. We have a smaller Edinburgh zone and one for Inverness, and we have representation from Aberdeen as well, but our ambition moving forward is definitely to try and engage much more with all of the regions of Scotland, to ensure each area is fully represented.”
She adds: “We have also launched the E Awards to recognise the achievements of the people who work in Scottish events and festivals. It’s going to be quite an informal awards ceremony, more of a networking event, but we have got proper trophies! But the networking element of the awards is something I was keen to do as I think events professionals quite like that. Networking is also good for business; it’s not just the hosted buyers who will be the focus of that. I think quite a lot of people in the events industry in Scotland, even competitors, are used to collaborating and working together these days. That’s the way the industry is going.”