Nick Pilbeam, Divisional Director Reed Exhibitions

Nick Pilbeam is the Divisional Director for Reed Exhibitions’ travel division, which includes the global portfolios of leading brands such as World Travel Market, ILTM and IBTM. He joined Reed Exhibitions in January 2015, bringing with him over 15 years of FTSE 100 experience in the travel industry from his previous roles with British Airways and Avios. At Reed Exhibitions he is responsible for over 20 travel industry events taking place throughout the year in Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Q: How is the exhibition market changing?
The current changes in the exhibition market are a reflection of the changing expectations of our customers. They have more personalised options to do business but in an increasingly time-poor environment, so the relevance and value of meetings and connections is now vital to ensure better return-on-investment and continuing customer satisfaction. As organisers our role now is to be relationship brokers and not just deliver a physical space for customers to meet. The emphasis is on advanced digital and data solutions to achieve this.

Q: Why do you think people are still interested in exhibitions?
Business worldwide thrives on face-to-face meetings. Discussions, debates, negotiations are always best done this way and we believe this will always be the case. Even though technology of course plays its part in the process of business, it cannot replace the relationship that starts with a live meeting! At the same time, exhibitions create the environment where connections are made, where friends choose to meet up once a year and where new relationships are developed. It’s the showcase for brands to stand out, to promote themselves and to meet with the industry trade press. All of this is what a trade show floor creates, there is no replacement. Time is an increasingly scarce resource and our research shows that this coupled with the human factor and the importance of real relationship building and trust, face-to-face events supported by world-class digital products will continue to be a core part of doing business globally into the future.

Q: What makes a good exhibition organizer?
Two things. Firstly, deliver tangible value to customers, specifically understanding and meeting their varied objectives such as being the platform for driving sales, building networks, building knowledge, making new connections and discovering new innovations – this is critical for satisfying customers and in return building sustainable and value-adding exhibitions. Secondly, flawless delivery of safe, secure, professional, timely and customer-orientated friendly shows are simply hygiene factors and non-negotiable in this industry. Delivery excellence is at the core of how Reed Exhibitions runs its business and delivers value for customers.

Q: What do you believe are the key statistics determining ROI for exhibitors?
There are many factors that will determine an exhibitor’s ROI and measurements will reflect their individual objectives for participating in an event. Identifying objectives and ROI measures is an important aspect of the pre-event planning. The agreed objective, for example to launch a new product, increase sales or raise brand awareness will influence whether a more quantitative or qualitative ROI measure is appropriate as well as the timeframe over which ROI is calculated by exhibitors. We evaluate the event experience through exhibitor feedback and this insight informs continuous development in our offering to customers.

“Even though technology of course plays its part in the process of business, it cannot replace the relationship that starts with a live meeting!”

Q: What do you think about this year’s trade fairs and what are your company’s biggest business challenges?
At the heart of every one of our shows this year and in the future is innovation, networking and practical education. Our challenge is to provide the content for each of these initiatives at every event. We also recognize that sometimes at large-scale events, it is not always easy to find and meet the ideal new business partner, supplier or customer however we have the data and technology now to help make the right connections and relationships happen.

Q: Are the national and regional tourist organizations fulfilling their role in promoting trade fairs?
Tourism boards are a key part of the exhibition industry and can provide a strong platform to both promoting their destination and preparing this route to market for the benefit of the private sector from that destination. We see some tourist boards making the most of trade fairs, through promotion to the buyer communities in the target markets, sourcing and supporting the relevant suppliers for the marketplace being targeted, all supported by over-arching destination branding and experiential activity. More recently we are seeing an increased move into the digital arena around trade fairs providing a holistic approach across these online and offline channels, all to increase the effectiveness of their involvement in these events. That said, there are a lot of ways to drive value from trade fairs and some tourist board are missing out on some of the pockets of value.


Q: What key business lessons have you learned over the years?
Preparation is critical – for a meeting, for a sales pitch for a launch, for just about any business interaction, in my view fortune favours the bold and prepared. Great people working together and going in the same direction make a phenomenal difference to business performance and team engagement.

Q: What’s your management style?
Approachable, collaborative and change orientated. We live in an era where there is a burgeoning amount of data both in our private and professional lives as well as the fact that digital developments continue to disrupt significant parts of society and the professional arena – these two areas continue to be an area of professional interest and focus going forward.

Q: The most memorable event for you?
Growing up in South Africa, the moment when Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok rugby jersey and hat, shook hands and congratulated the World Cup winning South Africa team captain Francois Pienaar on the global stage, was a great moment in the country’s history to be able to witness and be a part of.

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