The organisers of LAMMA on moving the agricultural trade show indoors to the NEC and the event’s bright future in its new home.
LAMMA stands for Lincolnshire Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association and, while the show no longer takes place in Lincolnshire and was formed by a small group of Lincolnshire agricultural equipment manufacturers rather than official association, the name has stuck throughout its decades-long history.
“Two of the people who formed the show, their companies are still here,” Rupert Levy – group finance director at organiser AgriBriefing, tells EN. “For more than 30 years a lot of the same companies have exhibited. It started as just Lincolnshire manufacturers, then grew to the UK and now it’s an international show.”
AgriBriefing has owned the agricultural machinery show since 2012, when it took place at Newark Showground. The organiser moved it to the East of England Arena and Event Centre (EEAEC) in 2014 before deciding to take the show indoors to the NEC for its 2019 edition.
At the EEAEC, says group events director Elisabeth Mork-Eidem, the show was a mixture of outdoor stands, exhibitor marquees, marquees built by the organiser and stands inside the venue’s permanent exhibition halls.
“One of the problems clearly with an outdoor show in January is the weather, which can be a bit interesting,” adds Levy. “The first time we ever ran it was minus eight degrees when we got on site.
“In 2018 we had problems with the wind. The second day was curtailed because the wind got up to to such a level that it was ripping through the marquees. Since we bought it we’ve always said it should be indoors. It never made sense to have anything that was at risk.
“What you also found is that when it was nice day everybody was outside and if it started to rain everybody went inside, which causes huge problems in terms of visitor flow.”
So, the decision was made to move the show inside for 2019, still in its vital January slot (in the summer the predominantly farmer audience would be unlikely to turn up). The show took up 11 halls at the NEC, and for Mork-Eidem the move was a vital opportunity to give the event a more business-like atmosphere.
“Making it a professional show was very important to us when we bought it back in 2012,” she tells EN. “It’s hard to do that when you are knee high in mud. The type of conversations that stand holders can have with the visitors are very different in that kind of environment from when you are in the NEC and it’s nice and dry. We think the type and the length of conversations people will have here will be better. Everyone is on same equal footing, and everyone has the exact same conditions, which was a struggle with an outdoor stand compared to an indoor stand.”
The reception from visitors and exhibitors to the change has been overwhelmingly positive, Mork-Eidem continues.
“It’s not been without its challenges,” she adds. “It’s a big move for everyone. It’s like we’re launching a new show at the NEC using 11 halls and expecting thousands and thousands of people. All our exhibitors have worked very closely with us over this year to make sure that we were ready for it.”
Moving to the NEC means that the organisers and exhibitors have had a one-day build as opposed to the previous set-up at EEAEC, where exhibitors were able to come in and starting building for the show over Christmas.
“It was very lax and very free in terms of what they could do, because of the nature of the site,” explains Mork-Eidem. “Here it’s a very controlled environment.”
Levy adds: “Here you can be a lot more professional, because the NEC do this every week of every year, all the time, and they’re used to doing it. They have a logistics team and the road access to the back of the halls is great. They all know the venue and they are all working together to make this thing work.”
“They have been so supportive throughout the whole process,” agrees Mork-Eidem. “It’s been very comforting from an event organiser perspective to be able to go to them with questions and sense-check stuff along the way.”
While the build may have had its challenges, with exhibitors bringing in large pieces of machinery and vehicles into the halls, the move has also meant that the exhibitors have a lot more options when it comes to their stands.
NEC senior account manager, Amy King comments: “The biggest success for us was being able to demonstrate that exhibitors could do everything they had done outdoors and more. There were so many logistical benefits to coming indoors, such as not having to worry that AV equipment would blow over, it could be installed and managed easier, buyers could meet suppliers without battling the elements, and exhibitors also had access to an experienced in-house event team on site.
“We needed to change the perception of the NEC; some exhibitors were concerned that due to being a big corporate, we would be inflexible and rigid in our thinking- it is quite the opposite. We worked tirelessly to change this throughout the year acting as a part of the LAMMA team.”
The move indoors might be the big change for this year, but the AgriBriefing team have big plans for the show’s future.
Taking up residency at the NEC opens up possibilities for conference and content elements at the show, including opportunities for learning and thought leadership going forwards, along with the chance for exhibitors to get far more creative in their new, and less weather-dependent, home.