Hot on the heels of announcing its new September 26 – 28 dates, we chat to FIT Show event director Nickie West about the challenges of the past year for live event organisers, what people can expect when the show opens its doors later this year, and why, as she says, “nothing beats the power of live events when it comes to connecting with the market”.
TF: It’s been a very difficult year or so for the Live events sector – what’s been going on behind the scenes at FIT Show?
NW: Well, we have become quite good at changing dates, which isn’t something I wanted to add to my repertoire. Across the event industry, we have all had to adapt to the challenges presented by the ever-changing impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But we are a resilient bunch, we know how to manage even the most challenging of situations, we know how to run safe and secure events and I know that the events industry will return stronger than ever as soon as the Government gives the go ahead to do so.
Behind the scenes we have very much been focusing on enhancing our proposition to meet the changing needs of the market. We’re in a very fortunate position in the sector because of the uplift in home improvement demands on the back of the amount of time people have spent at home during the various lockdown periods. We’ll be introducing new features, such as our outdoor living focus, as a direct reflection of the demand within the market.
We have also been putting exciting plans in place to increase the lifetime value of the show. We’ve worked on our brand story and have also been exploring new and innovative ways to work with exhibitors to develop content that will add value to a visitor both pre and post FIT Show. A great example of this is the ‘WorkSmart’ campaign we have just launched with Business Pilot to help installers increase profitability. We have had more time to develop our content and this will directly benefit our FIT Show audience.
Many exhibition and awards organisers opted for virtual events – was this ever a consideration for FIT Show over the last year in some format – even in addition to the Live event? – If not, why not?
A virtual FIT Show was never on the cards, nor is it on the horizon any time in the future. FIT Show is all about face-to-face connections, seeing the latest products up close, being able to compare them side-by-side. You cannot do this virtually. I am yet to see one example of an online alternative to a B2B trade show that has delivered. Yes, virtual has a role to play in enhancing the show experience, such as hybrid events, or in delivering learning content, but it doesn’t match up to the power of live events.
We are already looking at ways to increase the shelf life of the content delivered at FIT Show, and how we can extend our whole offering above and beyond the three physical days at the show. You can expect to see some hybrid elements to our next instalment, but it will be very much the live FIT Show platform that our audience expects with enhancements rather than replacements.
It’s exciting to have the new dates in place – what has the response been like to the announcement? Are you getting a strong feeling people will be happy to be back at live events?
We’re really pleased to have secured new dates for the show later in the year, when we feel we will be in a much stronger position to deliver a successful FIT Show for the industry. As always, our community has thrown its weight behind the dateline. As well as moving our exhibitors over to the new dateline, we have also attracted some exciting new brands on the back of the new date announcement.
The sentiment across the sector is very much that people are desperate to get back to face-to-face business. In addition to the need for face-to-face interaction, there has been no industry event since 2019 and throughout this time businesses have still been developing new products. Brands are relying on FIT Show as a platform to bring these products to market. It’s going to be a very exciting showcase of the very latest products from every corner of the industry. And a celebration of bringing everyone back together again.
With regards to the format of the show, will you have any measures in place and do you envisage any differences in terms of social distancing, hand sanitisers, stand layouts etc.? Or will we go back to the FIT Show of old in terms of busy seminar theatres, stands and aisles etc.?
FIT Show will still have the same award-winning look and feel that the industry expects from our event. We will be running one seminar theatre in September with an extremely comprehensive learning programme and will be introducing new demonstration and meeting areas so that we can give our audience more opportunities to see the latest products in action and build connections.
In terms of mask wearing and hand sanitizing, we will follow whatever guidelines are in place at the time. Our operations team are staying abreast of the ever-changing guidelines for running safe events, which might include rapid testing and screening. Whatever happens over the next few months, I can assure our audience that we will deliver a safe and successful FIT Show when we are allowed to do so.
Do you feel the types of challenges the pandemic has presented for fabricators and installers around supply of materials, working in the home, remote-selling etc. will influence seminars and debates at this year’s FIT Show? Do you have any topics / speakers in place already?
We will absolutely be addressing key industry issues as part of the FIT Show 2021 learning programme. We have not finalised the seminar programme as yet, but our core pillars will include; ‘doing better business’, ‘sustainability’, ‘innovation’ and ‘legislation’. We expect that these topics will evolve significantly over the coming months, especially as we see the full impact of Brexit and the Greener Homes rollout. Our learning programme will be fully up-to-date to help arm our visitors with the content that is most relevant to them at the time of the show.
Likewise, I’m sure on the tech and product side there’ll be many new launches to assist installers and the supply chain with new ways of operating, as well as present new offerings to the home-owner who we’re constantly hearing has more money to spend and extend…
New products are an element I am hugely excited about when FIT Show returns. I’ve spoken to so many exhibitors who have got multiple new products and innovations that they are going to be bringing to FIT Show – this will be the first time that visitors will have had the opportunity to see these products up close.
In terms of new offerings, alongside the unprecedented surge in demand from homeowners for home improvements in general, outdoor living enhancements have seen a massive 64% increase in demand. To reflect this, we have developed a brand new ‘Outdoor Living’ feature which will showcase everything from sun rooms and garden rooms through to conservatories and canopies, decking and fencing, awnings, gates and other associated outdoor home improvement products.
What would your message be to potential exhibitors or visitors, if there are any, who are perhaps still reluctant to venture to the FIT Show this year?
I would reassure anyone who had reservations about attending a live event that event organisers are experts in delivering safe events. We have dealt with various health and safety issues, from natural disasters through to terrorist threats. Quite simply, we would not run FIT Show if it was not safe to do so. All of the necessary safety measures will be in place before we open the doors to anyone. And, if during the run up to FIT Show, I did not hand-on-heart believe that we could deliver a safe event, we would work with our exhibitors and stakeholders to find a solution that was right for them.
We were ahead of the curve in terms of moving the May show to a dateline we felt offered us all more room for the climate to improve, but we will of course remain nimble. As always, our priorities are protecting ROI for exhibitors and visitors, alongside protecting the FIT Show brand for the industry.
I believe that it’s more important than ever that brands support FIT Show 2021. We believe that the exhibitor line-up will be a real marker of those brands that have not only survived the pandemic, but indeed thrived. Our team is poised and ready to bring new exhibitors on board and work with them to deliver a seamless FIT Show experience.”
What have you learned from the past year with regards to Live events and is there anything you’ll take with you from this experience going forward?
Over the last year, I have been reminded how resilient the events industry is. We have had to think on our feet throughout the pandemic and react to the needs of the market where we would usually be proactive. The biggest thing that the pandemic has highlighted is that nothing beats the power of live events when it comes to connecting with the market and bringing your products and services to life in the live event arena. I cannot wait to do what we do best when we open the doors on FIT Show in September.