South Africa's exhibitions and events industry has been branded the pinnacle for engagement marketing. This dimension has been taken a step further with the combination of conferences and exhibitions.
The confex industry has grown in popularity in recent years, confirming that conference delegates not only want to be informed from the podium, but also want to experience the “look and feel” of products, systems and services on exhibit alongside the conference.
A recent example is the 2008 Electricity Distribution Maintenance Summit which was held at Gallagher Estates. Says EE Publishers Managing Director Chris Yelland who handled the coordination of the initiative: “Conferences are normally motivated to address current issues and to share knowledge, with the objective to find solutions through dialogue. The prevailing electricity situation and its effects on commerce, industry and communities in general, is a great qualifier to draw professionals into a forum where like-minded executives can meet to debate positive outcomes.”
EE Publishers supported the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in association with EDI Holdings and other strategic partners to organize and host the Summit. The event was also supported and endorsed by international and local electro-technical associations and institutes. Yelland says that, as soon as the conference and its contents including around 40 speakers of note were announced, companies were eager to demonstrate their competence in maintenance to support the overall theme “Towards a sustainable electricity distribution industry”. About 60 known brands in the electrical and electronic engineering industry, including names such as ABB, Alstom, Powertech, Schneider Electric and Siemens, demonstrated their commitment through their participation.
Yelland comments: “The Summit ran over two days and accommodated delegates with a keen interest in the proceedings as well as viewing the displays between the presentations. The exhibition was arranged at a low cost, yet highly effective, and we chose Oasys Innovations as our exhibition partner.”
Oasys Business Development Manager Andrew Gibb echoed the increasing popularity of Confexes. “On our first floor plan at the end of last year we only had about 30 stands to build. However, as the content of the conference unfolded we had a scramble for space. This confirms the tendency in support of cascading value from conferences in association with exhibitions. The fact that several brand owners wanted designer stands is also an indication that companies want to go the extra mile to give conference delegates a bonus for their effort to attend, and is also viewed as a good marketing platform. We built the complete infrastructure for the shell scheme, the furniture and supplied audio visual equipment.”
As South Africa is moving towards a future of possibilities, there will be more opportunities for conversation around solutions for popular topics. This will no doubt lead to many more professional conferences where solutions can be debated and presented through visual means on the confex platform.