Chet Burchett, president of Reed Exhibitions, the Americas, is well aware of the benefits of virtual trade shows in a digital age. “Some companies make a lot of noise about virtual shows and, to the degree that they can deliver customer value, that's great. [But] they are not a replacement for the physical event,” he said. “There are a lot of things that go on at a face-to-face event which mirror the value of online activity—in terms of qualified audience, engagement and qualified metrics on the back end.”
While there was a decline in square footage for Reed's events in 2010 compared to 2009,Burnett said the company is poised for growth this year. “Sales of preshow, at-show and post show are running ahead of pace,” he said.
Despite the downturn, Burchett's division has been growing both organically and through acquisition. In February, Reed Exhibitions Brazil acquired Multiplus Fairs and Events, boosting the company's global energy portfolio. The deal made Reed Exhibitions the largest trade show company in Brazil, with 54 events; it has 450 trade shows worldwide.
Pax East, a three-day gaming festival that debuted in March and attracted 52,290 participants, was the most successful launch in the history of Reed Exhibitions, North America, Burchett said. In 2010 Reed rolled out three niche events in the U.S. targeting the security sector.
Burchett's unit introduced two digital services in 2010: “Map Your Show,” an online preshow planning tool, and Reed Touch Mobile App. The app, which is free, is branded across Reed's North American shows and features a navigation device and instant text capability.
“Our innovation is driven by increasing the value of our brands for customers and improving the quality of the experience they have with us,” Burchett said.