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The ESSA Conference 2016 – Summary

Thursday the 24th of November saw the coming together of the key players in the UK event industry for the ESSA Conference, held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The order of the day was collaboration, in the hope of ironing out the latest issues in the industry, to make it a better, fairer environment for all involved.There were a number of great talks throughout the day from the likes of Simon Hartley, Dominic Swords, Graham King, Philip Soar and Derek Redmond, covering innovation, the post-Brexit economy, the importance of teamwork as a motivator, the current state of the events industry and how success can be achieved in the future.

Dominic Swords talking about the economic implications of 'Brexit', and the actions businesses should look to take.

There were also two panel sessions involving discussions about the current issues in the UK event industry. The first covering how, as an industry, we can work best together, something that certainly engaged a number of the audience to give their own perspectives. The chair of this panel was Andy Gibb, the Ricoh Arena's representative with over 20 years experience in events, who was joined by fellow experts representing venues, event organisers and stand contractors alike – ‘the three pillars’ of the events industry was the phrased often used.

The second panel was led by Adam Parry of Event Industry News, who was joined by five other experts to discuss innovation in the industry, and how any innovation would need to be practised throughout the supply chain for end users to see the added value.

Adam Parry leads the panel session on innovation in the UK events industry.

Topics discussed


The fundamental reason behind the ESSA conference is to unite the members of the exhibition & events industry to encourage collaboration and partnerships amongst its members. Clearly, for any of the issues currently facing the industry to be resolved this would require a combined effort from all involved, with the end goal of improving the experience for exhibitors and visitors. After all, happy exhibitors and attendees are much more likely to return to a show if they had an enjoyable, and rewarding experience.

The general consensus was that greater transparency was needed, in order to improve communication between the ‘three pillars’ of the industry. By doing so, this would reduce pressure on event organisers from venues in the form of more reasonable tenancy times, which would then reduce time constraints placed on exhibition stand contractors, resulting in better, safer stands being built.



Innovation is the key to survival for any business, and ensures industries continue to thrive. This is no more true in the events industry, with more and more companies coming to the fore, and international venues increasing competition on the UK’s event industry. Topics discussed here were attendee and exhibitor focused, with a greater need to connect exhibitors with the right attendees using location-based data. Technologies such as live heat mapping are certainly something venues and event organisers need to utilise in order to improve the experience on the floor. It is certainly questionable how flexible exhibitor pricing can be offered without making use of all this potential data. By connecting the right attendee with the right exhibitor, at the right time, this would infer a more successful experience for all involved, leading to an increased ROI from each event.

Another slightly blurred topic surrounding innovation was virtual reality. Whilst this technology is still in its relative infancy, many of the delegates were slightly apprehensive and unsure of how it can be applied to the events industry. However, it would be futile to ignore a technology that could have such a disruptive impact for all involved. For example, if attendees can browse trade shows from their homes, what will this then mean for venues, event organisers, stand contractors and so on? It was certainly apparent that greater attention needs to be placed on virtual reality and its application in the events industry over the next few months.


Health & Safety

Health and safety, whilst not the most riveting of topics, it is certainly something of great importance in the events industry right now. With venues taking on an increased number of events each year, this is shortening the tenancy times for event organisers, who then place greater pressures on stand contractors in the form of 1 day build and breakdown times. Furthermore, this is not helped by overnight breakdowns doubling in cost, which increases costs down the line for all involved. Clearly, this again demonstrates the need for greater transparency amongst the industries ‘three pillars’ as there is simply too much pressure placed on the contractor as things currently stand, and this will only result in more accidents and emergencies as more events take place.


Overall, the conference will certainly raise awareness of three main issues for all members of the events industry. In order for us to provide a more enjoyable experience for the exhibitors and attendees, there needs to be a collaborative effort throughout the supply chain, so that better stands can be built, in a safer manner, for a lower cost in order for this to be passed onto the end of the value chain in the form of lower prices and more impressive stands for exhibitors and attendees.

Innovation is crucial going forward, and technologies such as location-based data promise to improve the success that many exhibitors have at their shows, as a result of being connected with appropriate attendees. This will make the experience more rewarding for all, and ensure the repeat custom that is necessary for the UK events industry to not only survive, but also thrive in the long term.

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