by Nicola Macdonald

Neil Mckenzie, MD of Oliver Kinross, on the challenges of moving from conferences to exhibitions.

Hi Neil, can you tell us about the background of Oliver Kinross?


Oliver Kinross was launched in 2008 in Nottingham. The company was quite literally launched from a bedroom and grew as a conference organiser.


We currently have 45 staff, with our head offices now in Moorgate in London and an office in Hong Kong. In recent years we have moved into organising exhibitions within our events portfolio.


What sort of conferences do Oliver Kinross organise?


Oliver Kinross was launched a couple of months before the financial crisis erupted. As soon as the financial crisis started we took the decision not to run too many events in western markets and over the following years focused on finding frontier and emerging markets to run events in.


We organised B2B conferences in countries as diverse as Ghana, Uganda, Libya, the Caribbean, Mexico, Myanmar, Turkey, Indonesia and many more. Our main markets were oil & gas, power and healthcare. Over the years we had many great experiences and a lot of fun travelling the world.


Why did Oliver Kinross move into exhibitions?


A couple of years ago, we decided to take the plunge and started organising exhibitions within our events portfolio. We take the view that in the coming years there will be some level of decline in the traditional B2B conference model.


We believe the conference industry will always be there, but large-scale events, and events that are more interactive, innovative and multi-dimensional, are where the B2B events industry is heading, and where the greatest opportunities can be found.


What type of exhibitions does Oliver Kinross organise?


The way we entered the exhibitions industry wasn’t conventional, to say the least, but come to think of it Oliver Kinross has never been a conventional company.


We initially launched a very wide range of exhibitions in a short period of time and in many different markets. The company didn’t have a shortage of ideas and we wanted to test a variety of them while we found our feet in exhibitions. We weren’t afraid to take a few risks while we got a feel of what would work and where we should be.


As we find our feet in the exhibitions industry, we are now focusing on what we have found to be our strongest events, particularly in the construction industry. We have recently delivered some fantastic events that have had great feedback and are showing signs of growth as repeat events.


Tell us more about your construction exhibitions


We organise construction events in London, Scotland, New York, Sydney, Auckland and Africa. We are working hard on creating one of the world’s most innovative portfolio of construction events.


We have worked flat-out on our exhibitions to create and fine-tune our own unique event format. Many of our construction events are now showing fantastic results and in the last quarter of 2016 we hosted three successful Build events globally which we were very pleased with.


We are really excited going into 2017 with these events, particularly with the strong growth they are now showing.


What is the biggest difference between organising conferences and exhibitions?


The contrast in manpower, marketing effort, time frame and investment of launching an exhibition over a conference.


Other than that, we find the principles are very much the same between the two. B2B conferences and exhibitions flourish when they provide an opportunity for companies to gain insight and competitive advantage into market trends and opportunities, and when they facilitate plenty of high-level face-to-face networking.


Have any of the skills you acquired in conferences helped you in exhibitions?


Absolutely: Content is of paramount importance to all events these days. If you really want to deliver a meaningful event to the industry, then delivering cutting-edge content at the heart of the event is essential.


Our experience in running conferences has meant that all our exhibitions have multiple conference and workshop floors with industry-leading speakers in the very centre of the exhibition hall providing the heart and soul of the show.


What else have you learnt about running exhibitions?


There are three ingredients that we believe are essential in delivering a successful show: content, entertainment and networking.


Content is key to create a cutting-edge event and to attract attendees. Entertainment at a show needs to be used to create a positive vibe and to create a fun day out for attendees in order to keep them at the event as long as possible.


Even at a B2B event, doing business should always be fun. Facilitating networking opportunities and meetings for exhibitors, and helping them do business at an event, is essential to giving them a return on their investment.

What does 2017 have in store for Oliver Kinross?


We are really excited about the year ahead. We’ve been through the investment and launch phase of our exhibitions over the last couple of years and we are now focused on growing our most successful events in 2017 on the back of strong shows in 2016. We also intend to invest more in our company infrastructure in 2017 and are currently appointing a new financial director.


Watch this space.

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