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PLASA restructures – and tightens its belt

A "critical cashflow problem" has resulted in PLASA cutting back on its activities in 2016, the organisation has said.

A “critical cashflow problem” has resulted in PLASA cutting back on its activities in 2016, the organisation has said. It has asked for members’ feedback on its next steps as it moves forward into a new phase of its existence.

The industry body has made a wide-ranging announcement outlining the organisation’s current position in the wake of various recent changes.

Speaking at a meeting for PLASA members held during the PLASA show, John Simpson, PLASA Governing Body chairman and chairman of the White Light Group of companies, said: “Without doubt our major issue this year has been that of diminishing profit, which has led to a critical cashflow problem for the organisation.

“We have taken action in implementing cost-cutting measures across many parts of PLASA, including reduction in staff, putting the Eastbourne office up for sale and a substantial restructure of the organisation. We have overcome the immediate cashflow problems for 2015, but will be limited in services we can provide during 2016 – which is why our members’ feedback is so important as we look forward.”

Speaking after the event, Simpson said: “This has been a difficult period for PLASA but it is also an opportunity for us to refocus. PLASA has a chance to reassess its role in this industry, its relationships and communications with its members, and the future directions of its commercial activities. As we go forward, PLASA members can expect an association that is more nimble and responsive, more visible and in touch with its members’ day-to-day challenges and concerns, and as we return to profitability, better positioned to reinvest in the industry and provide the help and support our members need to boost their business activities.”

As we recently reported, the merger agreement between PLASA EU & PLASA North America (formerly ESTA) is due to be terminated. Simpson said: “Both associations will retain the assets they had prior to the merger, which in the case of PLASA will be all the event and media assets not including Protocol magazine, the property in Eastbourne, various programmes, the Technical Resources Office and our skills-based qualifications such as the National Rigging Certificate. Negotiations are now in progress to allow an orderly separation of operations that are jointly owned and settlement of outstanding financial matters.”

Simpson reminded members that the PLASA membership and Regional Boards were near-unanimous in voting for the merger back in 2010. “At the time, the two organisations were running the same programmes, providing the same services and it was felt that a merger could only enhance the global strength of the PLASA trade body.”

He added: “Over the past years, it has become apparent that the culture of the way services should be provided has changed, and now both regions want to service their members in a different way.”

In canvassing PLASA Members’ opinions on services offered by the Association in the future, Simpson proposed an initial structure of five ‘core’ Member Services:
• Market research & data;
• Skills development;
• The Technical Resource Office;
• Political representation of membership and industry; and
• Networking events for the membership.
Additional services could be provided at a premium, including: IP support & protection; trade mission support for export; and representation on technical standards groups and committees.

He also said PLASA would welcome members’ views on its media and events businesses.

In a move that has been warmly welcomed by the majority of PLASA’s members and exhibitors, the PLASA Show will move to Olympia in 2016, and return to a September dateline, taking place from 18-20 September.
The relocated three-day show will draw on PLASA’s experience of the hugely successful PLASA Focus Leeds event, and be based around smaller, more affordable exhibiting packages with a shorter build time, giving exhibitors more flexible opportunities and a faster return on investment. In addition, by utilising the adjacent Olympia Conference Centre, it will provide access to an industry-leading education and Professional Development Programme, as well as to the all-important accommodation and after-hours entertainment possibilities that West London offers.

Regarding the announcement of the PLASA show’s move to Olympia for 2016, Simpson said: “A catalyst for our financial problems has been the changing landscape around the PLASA show here in London. Over the past 37 years or so, the show has served the association incredibly well, but the increased costs of ExCeL plus the desire of our exhibitors to move back to Olympia has made it essential that we have a major overhaul of what we are offering, where and to whom.”

PLASA director of events Chris Toulmin said: “Despite the ever increasing opportunities to market driven by technology, face-to-face interaction continues to be a key route to market and maintaining ongoing relationships. The creation of the PLASA Focus events was a response to the changing landscape of exhibiting for our industry. That is why we have continued to evolve and develop this model to create a new show suitable for the entertainment capital of the world. Moving back into the heart of London will undoubtedly boost the interest and support for the show. Visitors can expect a more interactive, informative and rewarding experience. Exhibitors can expect to see a significant audience of key creatives and decision makers combined with reduced cost and time commitment of participation, bringing that all-important good return on investment.”

Among the staff changes at PLASA is the recently announced departure of CEO Matthew Griffiths, after 17 years in that role. Clarifying the position, PLASA’s Regional Board chairman and managing director of Panalux Broadcast & Event Division Ed Pagett stated: “Matthew Griffiths will be relinquishing his duties as CEO of PLASA on 31 October, but will continue to work on behalf of the Governing Body and Regional Boards on the demerger with North America until his contract ends on 31 January 2016. The PLASA Regional Board is currently working with the Executive team to redefine the management structure of PLASA that best fits our future aspirations and member/organisational needs. As soon as this has been established we will consult the membership and make the necessary transition.”

In addition, PLASA finance director Shane McGreevy has moved to a part-time role with the organisation, and will continue to oversee the financial operation during the transition.

Pagett continued: “Members have been very supportive of the changes being proposed so far, and they can be assured that the PLASA staff with the guidance of the Regional Board are committed to reshaping PLASA –­ getting back to our core values and focussing our resources where they matter most –­ on our members.”