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Organising Clarion’s largest launch

by Nicola Macdonald

Thomas Gaunt, managing director – Clarion Events Middle East, on the EN Award-winning launch of the Egypt Defence Expo. 

How did the idea for Egypt Defence Expo (EDEX) come about?

Launching EDEX was a collaborative effort that took a few years in the making. We gradually developed a relationship with the stakeholders who attended Clarion’s other events in the region and wished to replicate the success of our other shows in Egypt. EDEX was a new launch event idealised as an opportunity for Egypt to demonstrate their capabilities and also offer Egyptian companies a platform to showcase their equipment and services to an international audience.

What were the reasons for choosing Egypt?

With over 1.3 million military personnel, Egypt is the largest military power in Africa and one of the leading forces worldwide. These impressive statistics made it the ideal host for a defence & security exhibition, in addition to the fact that the geographic location of the country lends itself to business in both Africa and Middle East.

What was the partnership like between Clarion and the Egyptian Armed Forces?

The show was held under the patronage of His Excellency, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, The President of The Arab Republic of Egypt and The Supreme Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces. This official support allowed the Egyptian Armed Forces to work closely with us in identifying the technology they wished to see, identifying their priorities with regards to the VIP delegation programme and gaining support from their senior military leadership. The level of government engagement also meant that the media coverage was huge. This was an important event not only for the industry but for the country.

What was the process of preparing the show for launch?

One of the main challenges in the planning stage was the time frame. Twelve months is not a long planning cycle, especially for a launch show of this size and it was the first exhibition the Egyptian Armed Forces had ever done. As a part of our working process, we maintained a personal presence in the regular intensive planning meetings (mostly in Arabic), which meant a huge amount of travel and effort for the Clarion team.

What were your expectations for the event and were they met?

We were tasked to deliver 10,000 visitors and 300 exhibitors across three exhibition halls. In addition, we were asked to develop an attractive VIP programme that would bring together global leaders. The patronage of the event was awarded by HE President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his confirmed attendance heightened the need for the event to be perfectly delivered.

As the event approached, we were required to extend the show floor in order to accommodate demand for last-minute exhibition stands; we actually sold over 300sqm of space in the final two weeks before the show, mostly to Egyptian companies. Our final attendance numbers reached 30,141 people across three event days. With such numbers, we surpassed the goals for the event and reached our objective to develop an event that would leave a strong legacy for future editions. We have already announced an extended floor plan for EDEX 2020 and the exhibition will run over four days instead of three due to the demand.

EDEX was the largest launch in the 72-year history of Clarion Events. This achievement sets the event as key moment in our company’s history. Equally impressive, the event has already been confirmed on the launch edition to be the largest defence exhibition in all of Africa and one of the biggest in the world.

What made the event special?

We provided a platform for companies to access the Egyptian market in a way they couldn’t before – face-to-face. The event provided a unique opportunity to assess the extent to which specialised Egyptian defence manufacturers could compete in international markets and allowed exhibitors to assess the marketability of their products.

Aside from the KPIs we exceeded, the fantastic feedback from exhibitors and the huge number of visitors queuing out the doors; the thing that made the event most special for me was the pride of the Egyptian people. From the Minister of Defence right down to the most junior officer there was unadulterated joy and pride in what had been achieved. The event concluded with a huge firework display to the sounds of the impressive Military Band, leaving a lasting impression for attendees. The effort put in by everyone was reflected in the success of the show, and this was a very special feeling.

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