Interview – Robert Hallam on CEDIA Expo 20106 August 2009
You need wait no longer – the decision about the location of next year’s CEDIA Expo has been made. IE Residential spoke exclusively to Robert Hallam, CEDIA Region 1 chair, to find out whether or not the show will be moving from the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands, and to learn more about the association’s plans for the show.
Q: What is the decision on the location for CEDIA Expo 2010?
A: Following a comprehensive consultation exercise in partnership with the event’s stakeholders, I am pleased to announce that the annual CEDIA Expo training and product showcase event will return to ExCeL London in 2010. We have set the dates as 15-17 June for the exhibition with training running from 14-17 June.
Q: Why have you chosen ExCeL London?
A: ExCeL London emerged as the preferred location for a clear majority of those canvassed in the review.
Key findings included:
- 68% of present and past exhibitors wanted the CEDIA Expo to be a single event in one location.
- 75% of those exhibitors wanted the event to remain at ExCeL London.
- 63% of CEDIA Expo visitors chose London as the preferred location with 84% of those wanting it to remain at ExCeL London.
- 79% of exhibitors and 80% of visitors rated CEDIA Expo 2009 as good or excellent.
In view of these results, the CEDIA Board has endorsed that selection.
Q: How was the decision reached?
A: In the run-up to the event and at the show itself I spent a considerable amount of my time and energy talking with exhibitors, as did other Board members and the CEDIA office staff.
This partnership was critical to the success of CEDIA Expo 2009, and continuing the dialogue will be critical to the success of future events. That’s why we have consulted widely with the industry in a number of different ways about the location for 2010.
Through face-to-face meetings, telephone research and surveys, both through email and via hard copies handed out at CEDIA Expo 2009, we really have sought to engage the industry in taking a responsibility for the future of their show.
Overall, we have talked extensively with more than 100 companies and individuals from across the industry who had either attended the 2009 CEDIA Expo or supported the event in previous years. Exhibitors and visitors were invited to tell us where and how the Expo experience could be improved whilst those members who registered but did not visit were asked to contribute their feedback and ideas to the debate. Before the Expo, we appointed an independent company to conduct detailed telephone interviews on our behalf with both exhibitors and visitors.
In addition, we also kept an eye on the IE Residential poll, which asked the question: where CEDIA should hold the next CEDIA Expo?
Q: As the IE Residential poll indicated, no decision was going to please everyone. What steps will CEDIA take to make sure the Expo experience at ExCeL London is a success with both exhibitors and visitors?
A: Because of the nature of the Expo which combines high-quality training off the show floor with a sizeable exhibition, we are limited to the number of venues in the UK that will work.
Believe me, in the past twelve months, the CEDIA office team has travelled the length and breadth of the country to check out potential venues in Bournemouth, Brighton, Birmingham, London, Manchester and elsewhere. There is no ‘secret’ venue out there that’s 100% right for everybody!
ExCeL London is a venue that offers good access for exhibitors and a great show floor that’s really easy to navigate. The training rooms are excellent too, and they’re fast and simple for delegates to access from the exhibition, which is really important. ExCeL has also just completed an investment of over £160 million in brand new, state-of-the-art exhibition and conference facilities which is where we will locate next year’s CEDIA Expo.
Generally, people talk about ExCeL being difficult to get to and that there’s no evening nightlife once the exhibition is over.
Well, I think it’s worth pointing out that the Jubilee line extension has speeded up access from Central London quite significantly for those using the underground. The motorway and A-road links are pretty good for anywhere in London – arguably as quick to reach from the M25 if not quicker than, say, Earls Court; and the parking is unquestionably better. Then there’s the airport – and as an international traveller I’m personally delighted that you can fly direct to nearby City Airport. More than 50 interior designers even came by boat to this year’s Expo, so I’m not sure that access is as bad as some would have you believe!
And, as for nightlife, it’s true that the choice immediately outside the venue might not be as wide as we’d like. But Canary Wharf is a five-minute taxi ride away, with some great bars and restaurants around Westferry Circus. In the run-up to 2010 we will be working especially hard to communicate the networking options to exhibitors – so watch this space.
We also have major plans to ensure that the CEDIA Expo continues to stay fresh, relevant and as valuable as possible to the industry, building on the success of 2009 – more info on that below.
Q: Do you think the 2009 show was successful because of, or despite, its smaller size?
A: That’s a difficult one. Many businesses have endured a rough ride over the last twelve months and it was no surprise that this year’s show reflected this economic climate. The event was smaller in size with some notable absentees, which you would have thought would impact negatively upon the visitor experience.
But the outstanding feedback we received from exhibitors and visitors showed that actually smaller equated, in many cases, to more manageable and more productive. Visitors were able to spend a longer time with those exhibitors that were there. They could talk to those that perhaps might have passed them by had the show been bigger, and visitor time more pressurised.
For any event organiser, achieving the right size of show for exhibitors and visitors is an incredibly difficult trick to pull off. This year’s show seemed to hit the mark for all concerned. And, we were obviously delighted about that.
Q: At the meeting held with exhibitors at Expo 2009, new ideas and initiatives for future events were mentioned. Can you shed any light on these?
A: CEDIA aims to build on the success of new initiatives, such as the Show Floor Theatre and the ‘Designing Interiors With Technology’ conference, which were so well supported at this year’s show.
With the Show Floor Theatre we recognised the need to provide core educational elements to our members outside of a formal classroom setting. These sessions gave crucial updates on technology and the market, free of charge as a valuable asset to our industry.
The ‘Designing Interiors With Technology’ conference proved to be one of the most successful aspects of CEDIA Expo 2009. With more than 110 designers attending the event, it enabled us to reinforce the knowledge base of our members and the tangible benefits that can flow from closer partnership between interior designers and CEDIA member companies.
Outline plans for 2010 include the addition of a half-day seminar programme tailored to electrical contractors. We are already making good progress on this front, and have secured the support of the leading title in the sector, Professional Electrician magazine, to help us devise the programme and promote the event.
We are also looking at dedicated conference-style events for architects and building services consultants in an effort to support CEDIA’s efforts in establishing the CEDIA brand as a quality mark for the industry – this is a core goal for CEDIA and one that will ensure a greater proportion of project work is secured by a CEDIA member company. More on that soon.
In another initiative, we are considering the option of a special VIP evening, working with major institutions and banks based in Canary Wharf to attract high net-worth consumers to the event.
We are working hard to ensure the show adapts to the changing market conditions, and will continue to bolt-on new initiatives, which ultimately enables the show to be more successful and reach a wider audience.
Q: There’s also been talk of a re-brand. Again, what’s the latest here?
A: True, we are exploring the possibility of a re-branding for the event. One challenge we face is communicating the meaning and relevance of CEDIA Expo to those people who haven’t got a clue what CEDIA is all about, which is particularly relevant in our efforts to attract professional bodies outside of, but related to, the industry, such as Interior Designers, Architects, etc. Re-branding the event to broaden its appeal to new custom installation and design professional audiences is an obvious way for the show to move forward.
Whatever the outcome of these considerations, CEDIA is committed to ensuring that the CEDIA Expo remains representative of the industry’s needs as the platform for education and doing business.
Q: In view of the success of ISE, what’s the long-term future for CEDIA Expo?
A: We are committed to the success of both events.
CEDIA membership is expanding worldwide, and within the countries in CEDIA Region 1 we continue to see a significant increase in membership and activities. ISE is a proven vehicle for reaching integrators in these territories and with CEDIA’s help we can directly support their growth and professionalism through our education and marketing programmes.
That’s why CEDIA Region 1 took the decision in 2007 to invest directly in ISE and, as co-owners of the show alongside InfoComm, the trade association for the commercial AV sector, we want ISE to be successful.
CEDIA Expo is a different event to ISE. It is smaller and deliberately focused on the residential custom installation industry. The huge opportunity afforded by Expo for in-depth, high quality training and the event’s location in the biggest CI territory outside of the US accentuate those differences.
Having a seat in both events, provides us with a much better understanding of how the shows can complement rather than conflict with each other, and ultimately provide platforms that suit the visitors and the exhibitors at each show.