Exhibition Supply Chain Dynamics in Flux

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With competition increasing in the exhibition industry, managing the supply chain is more important than ever for organisers, venues and associations. Susan Reynard reports.


The main exhibition supply chain consists of seven major categories, says Christine Davidson, Vice President of dmg events MEA, who is responsible for the Africa operations:

  • Stand construction: planning beforehand, build onsite, breakdown and post show review
  • Venue: provide a clean, secure and operationally efficient environment to host the event
  • Design and print: brochures, signage, websites, advertising, branding, all collateral
  • Web hosting: create, maintain, host site for each show, throughout the cycle
  • Email distribution: provide safe and fast communication delivery that meets required standards
  • Media: print, online, outdoor, direct mail, inserts etc.
  • Registration: provide fast, simple, efficient system to record visitors wishing to visit, manage their entry into the show onsite and provide a range of post-show analysis and figures

Each company within their supply chain is expected to work to dmg’s specific service level agreements, which includes meeting cost and efficiency standards and providing a high level of service to customers/exhibitors/visitors.

Christine and her team at dmg-ems Africa hosted the inaugural The Hotel Show Africa at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand in June 2017, alongside Africa’s Big 7. This gives the company, which is headquartered in Dubai, a unique perspective on hosting shows in South Africa.

Christine says that as an international company, the exhibition supply chain varies in accordance with their needs, although in South Africa there are fewer suppliers. “We engage the best supplier for the job. We review and assess after every show to ensure the quality exhibitors and visitors expect of dmg is maintained,” she explains.

“We have found that there are fewer suppliers to the exhibition sector in South Africa compared with other parts of the world e.g. Western Europe, USA and the Middle East. That volume of suppliers tends to drive competition and consequently standards and innovation levels. We have also found there is not a huge variety in terms of operational products and solutions available that sometime makes it more difficult to produce the event in the way we would like,” she adds.

Carol Weaving, CEO of Reed Exhibitions and Chairperson of the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) says that the association, formed nearly two years ago, has made significant strides and undertaken market research, including engaging with government, to understand the economic impact of the industry.

“Exhibitions have been previously undervalued and underestimated and probably misunderstood. Now we’re driving the exhibition industry and ensuring advertising agencies and marketers talk to their clients and understand the value of these exhibitions,” she says.

Carol Weaving, CEO of Reed Exhibitions and chairperson of the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), says at Reed Exhibitions, which held 17 exhibitions this year (two of which were in Kenya and Ghana) the supply chain starts with the venue. “You need to work out dates, rates, availability, suitability, and that international (hotels nearby) and consumer needs (plenty of parking) are met. Once you have the concept in place, you start talking to your suppliers.”

Carol groups suppliers as follows:

  • Operations: One major stand contractor is hired to build shell scheme stands, chosen based on relationships, service and pricing – service and delivery are essential. Start the conversation early and work with them as a partner right the way through to the end of the show. They are our infrastructure partner or contractor, who takes care of stands, lighting, distribution boards and electrics etc.
  • Ancillary: Includes suppliers providing registration, cleaning, security, plumbing, furniture and plants. Some suppliers offer a package deal of several of these functions and other suppliers specialise or outsource to each other.
  • Content: Conferences are the norm at trade shows for the B2B market so you need to organise workshops, speakers, panel discussions, demonstrations and/or meetings – you may have 70 educational workshops during a single event.
  • Marketing: Includes street pole advertising posters; social media; artwork; banners; radio slots; advertisements and more. We have a range of agencies on our books, big and small. The marketing strategy depends on the type of event. Market research and visitor analysis is often supplied by the registration company, who may also do matchmaking and meetings.

Read on below to find out about suppliers, exhibitions as experiences, and more. 

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