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Centre in London. Both have masses of industry support and continue to grow in their own right. [With that show,] it isn’t that we want to compete with ourselves; we just feel there are two markets. An FM show in Birmingham has always worked and should long continue to work.”

Following that battle cry, planning is under way to give Facilities Management a flying start when the doors open next year. As with anything, first impressions will be vital to the relationship with visitors – something, easyFairs are well aware of. Support and attendance will in part be driven by the popularity of Maintec, the UK's leading show for maintenance, plant and asset management. Maintec is already supported by the Facilities Management Association (FMA), which brings us to the topic of industry bodies and their involvement in the show. As it stands, Facilities Management 2014 is in the early stage of planning and hasn’t opened discussions with any of the generic FM bodies [such as the BIFM] but have been targeting the smaller, ‘vertical’ associations, including the British Pest Control Association. Though, as Matt suggests, official support is important, it’s not always essential.

“Associations are key to us. Whether they are generic industry ones or vertically-based, we will embrace as many as we can. We’ve just put together our first steering group and would welcome them [the larger associations] to the table but, at the same time, we can’t base a show purely on one association. When easyFairs was launched eight years ago, we didn’t actually work with any associations. Although, in the last five years, we’ve started to work a lot closer with industry associations.

“Whilst we always welcome the relationship, I don’t think you can say it is make or break without them. What I think is quite interesting, is focusing on the vertical associations. A lot of events are becoming more niche and that opens the door to them. What you’re doing, then, is giving the visitor more reasons to take the time out of the office.”

“We love to provoke thought and debate and normally that means putting together something controversial.”

Time out of the office is the main obstacle for event organisers to overcome if their shows are to get off the ground. Having the right exhibitors present is a step in the right direction but not always enough, when deals can be struck over the phone or via email. As Matt puts it, “content is king” and an impactful educational offering is something an easyFairs show cannot be without.

The easyFairs approach is to create ‘Learnshops’, which will ideally encourage audience participation and avoid product-placement. Presentations with real purpose are the ones that pack out show theatres – I need only mention the recent Premiership FM panel debate at the Facilities Show as an example – to which Matt agrees. “Whilst we don’t say no to every exhibitor request to do an educational presentation, we normally focus our Learnshops on cutting edge, sometimes slightly controversial learning programming. Audience participation is of paramount importance to us. We love to provoke thought and debate and normally

that means putting together something controversial.”

The Lions’ Lair, easyFairs’ spin on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme, is usually the most controversial offering and one that Matt makes sure to drop in on, whatever the show. Lions Lair sees exhibitors pitch their products to the industry’s own Bannatynes and Deveys before the audience vote for the winner a la Ready, Steady, Cook! Though contestants open themselves up to a grilling, Matt insists it is all in good spirit. “Lion’s Lair is really just a bit of fun but surprisingly, across all of our shows, it’s the bit that the press love to get hold of and the exhibitors and visitors really enjoy. It’s not one for the faint-hearted because the judges are likely to know as much, if not more, about the industry as they do. You have to be a little bit ballsy to get involved but it’s all in good nature.“

Though the show remains a small dot on the horizon, for now, Matt leaves those unsure whether to return to the Midlands in 2014 with this message: “In terms of FM, the NEC is in the heart of the FM industry. With 91% of BIFM members based within a three hour drive of the NEC, the venue seems an ideal fit for FMs and the FM industry to access. We understand that it is vital to keep your ear to the ground and to deliver an event that the industry wants. Our long-term aim is to create an annual event that becomes a must-attend date in the diary for anyone involved in FM.”

Facilities Management 2014 takes place from 11th-13th March 2014 at the NEC.


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