I want to start this review of CONFEX 2014 with the phrase I dropped in to the organisers area to say when I left the show on Thursday: “Well done guys, you should be very proud with that show” CONFEX really worked being back in Olympia and it was a cracking decision to bring it back “home”.
Mash Media formally took over CONFEX from UBM in late September 2013. So fast forward only seven months and it is testament to the Mash Media team that CONFEX happened at all: what a challenge that must have been for the team. So the fact that it was such a tight ship means our little industry should give them a big pat on the back.
With all of the above we can and should overlook some of the problems at the show. My hope is that as Mash Media will look ahead to 2015 and will hopefully do a few things to help steer that tight ship into more innovative waters.
As a visitor I really enjoyed CONFEX. Two days was perfect and it was just the right size: as someone who suffers from dyslexia when shows are any bigger they end up looking like an unmade jigsaw in my head. I hadn’t been to Olympia for years and I forgot how much I love this space for exhibitions. The light that comes through the ceiling, the proximity from show floor to cafes and toilets make it much less of a chore than some larger venues.
Within the exhibition this year there were a few very nice chill out areas and having such a big networking area in the middle was a lovely trick. I also loved the tunnel (creatively designed by Robert Dunsmore) that gave the event a really nice feel as you entered the space.
I met over thirty exhibitors all of whom I thought were engaging and interesting and it was great to meet some old faces and a few new ones. I also loved a few bits of kit that I saw for the first time at CONFEX and here’s my wee mini review of the ones that I am really excited about:
– The catch box a wonderfully engaging way to help turn your audiences into participants
– Live Buzz event management software was very, very impressive and with the “desire to tailor the package to suit the event” this is certainly something we will be looking at
– Blow up chairs from Total Displays and other fun seating. As regular readers of the blog and attendees at our events may know, I do get rather excited about chairs.
– I’ve been looking for a cool UK photo booth company for a while and I really like the look of these guys Smiley Booth again hopefully they will pop along to Tech Fest!
– Showplans 3D mapping of exhibition spaces and venues was exceptionally impressive
– Eventpad exhibited for the first time at a show like this and I was really impressed with their stand, the staff and of course the pads and software
– silverstream.tv had a lot to offer and as our events move towards the live experience we need to engage companies who know this space and who can support the planner
Tech Fest supporters CrowdComms, doubledutch, etouches, Lumi and Passkey all showed their commitment to our industry by taking space and every one of them are well worth including in a list about great event technology.
Panels and education
I mention the stands and the exhibitors first as this should be the most important part of an exhibition. You would be forgiven for forgetting this when you read the marketing emails and even the brochure for shows like this that sometimes fail to mention the stands! I went to CONFEX to meet suppliers and to network so maybe you can call me old fashioned. I really wouldn’t have missed the sessions had they been removed.
As I’ve often said I think Conferences do learning better than exhibitions and you get what you pay for at an event. At an exhibition every single penny is scrimped and saved on the “content delivery” and that is a shame. Speaker briefing, guidance and selection can be rather haphazard too. Give the panels a chance to be heard over the buzz of the hall. Have an event manager looking after each area; have someone introducing speakers and if the topic for a panel is about “how to get audience interaction”, for example, take more than one question from the audience. If you run an exhibition and you are going to rave about the content, please, please, please support it properly.
But of course the two panels I spoke on where FANTASTIC! Well, from my perspective anyway. I enjoyed and I certainly learned quite a bit from the Conference News Question Time with Dan Walker, Lex Butler, Toby Lewis and John Martinez.
And I really enjoyed sparring with Julius Solaris and Jez Paxman about the exciting innovation taking place in our industry (their general view) and the lack of it (mine and Jonathan Bradshaw’s general perspective). Those three guys really know their onions and I thought Miguel Nevas facilitated quite brilliantly.
My review of me at CONFEX
I have to apologise to the 20 or so people who mentioned me in tweets for not responding. And to the four people I failed to actually meet up with. I arrived on the Wednesday with no battery on my phone. And on the Thursday with the wrong sim. I have a Smart Phone but sometimes I am not a very smart phone operator.
During Conference News Conference Time back in October I asked Mash Media’s MD Julian Agostini if he agreed that our big shows need to be innovative and that they need to be the shining lights in our industry. He nodded with enthusiasm promising that CONFEX would be such a beacon. I hope that this really is the vision. Now that we have CONFEX in his hands and Mash Media have a full year to execute the event I truly hope that they make this show what it could and should be.