EN heads north to check out the UK Food Shows by William Reed.
Co-locating trade shows is nothing new in the exhibition industry.
The logic is clear: events in the same sector, potentially attracting similar audiences, will always benefit from providing that option for their visitors and exhibitors.
With the UK Food Show, organiser William Reed has taken this logic a step further, co-locating five events in the food and drink sector under one roof at the NEC in Birmingham.
There’s Foodex, the Ingredients Show, the National Convenience Show, the Farm Shop & Deli Show and the Food & Drink Expo, which collectively attract professionals from across the food and drink market supply chain.
“The food and drink manufacturing sector is largest manufacturing sector in the UK, which makes it very important,” Andrew Reed, MD – events & exhibitions at William Reed, tells EN. “It’s a very competitive market at the moment, and it’s about trying to add value.
“From a company point of view, because we do other things in this sector other than exhibitions, we’ve put in this 28m screen, which is broken into seven elements. We’ve got 250 speakers, and each of those is streamed onto the big screen. We’ve also got a social media wall with weather updates and traffic updates.”
The screen, brought to life by Silverstream TV, is an attempt by the organiser to continue to add value and content for visitors across all five shows in an incredibly crowded and competitive sector.
“It’s a fully comprehensive and totally integrated solution, and a massive investment,” continues Reed. “The execution was a bit of a rollercoaster because it was much more complex than anybody has done before.”
“One challenge was the breaks between the sessions,” adds Silverstream creative director Simon Walton. “We didn’t want to show an empty stage, so needed to play in video content during the breaks. We put a playback system in each theatre that we could trigger remotely when the theatre sessions finished.
EN asks Reed what he thinks are the main factors that bring visitors along to the show.
“Visitors are there to find out what’s going on in the industry and meet new suppliers,” he explains. “But it’s also massively about the networking and getting up to date with trends and meeting new business partners for the future.
“Having a really committed programme of content you can increase the anticipation, which makes everyone more excited when they arrive, which then creates the moments which creates the memories.
“So far we’ve only received positive feedback, and if positive feedback is out and about and people are excited then that enthusiasm will spread, which is our general philosophy anyway. Be passionate and enthusiastic and lead the market, and then the market will follow. “
Unusually for co-located trade events, visitors aren’t scanned when they move from one show to another.
“We don’t have scanning points all around the show, because all that does it breed discontent among the visitors,” says Reed. “They think you’re counting them four or five times. They don’t understand that whole process. The numbers are what they are and when we come to talking to exhibitors we don’t tend to sit down and say ‘we’ve got x number of visitors’ because that total is never going to go past their stand.
“If you’re selling on a number then you’re selling on the wrong proposition. I do appreciate that if you’re got a big show then you need a decent density of visitor, because if you’re running around and no one appears to be there – even if they’re all frightfully important – then the general buzz is still not very good.
“Our key driver is the density of the show – basically the number of visitors divided by the sqm; if you can get that to be decent then everyone is happy.”
With tens of thousands of visitors and over 1,500 exhibitors across the five shows, the numbers may not be the most important factor, but EN has a feeling they don’t hurt.