By Georgina Kay (Mash Media)

A few months ago, I attended an Event Huddle, which was something my lecturers have always encouraged attending since I was in first year. Now, I’m sat in the room of the event, in my final year of my events degree, feeling both a wave of nostalgia as fresher week begins, as well as anxiety, from the thought of networking as a final year student. Looking around the room I was shocked to know most of those in the room.

This Event Huddle consisted of a panel talking on the topic of ‘where the industry will find the next generation of event professionals’. The panel was varied and knowledgeable, with industry profs from UK Events (formally BVEP) who are leading on new event apprenticeships, an event recruiter, Event First Steps, and the host Kevin Jackson. However, quickly I realised that they were more from an event agency background; there was no one from the festival or exhibitions side of the industry. So, when I was asked by the organisers to give my thoughts, I thought I’d discuss what I’ve been thinking since I’d started as a placement student at Exhibition News and Mash Media.

Exhibitions is where it’s at!

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I would argue until the cows come home, that the exhibitions industry is the best top funnel for new people to enter the industry.

Exhibitions, and more importantly, exhibition organisers, have the most elements of event typology which includes, conference programmes, gala dinners, specialised host buyer programmes and niche event production. So, for newbie event professionals, it has a broad scope for learning new skills that can easily transition to the rest of the events industry.

If someone is interested in fashion, someone who dreams of working London Fashion Week events, it would be better for them to learn best practices at a exhibition organiser like Hyve, working on Spring Fair, where you can learn how to create an incredible event for the fashion industry. Most importantly, you would be able to see how exhibitor clients treat those that they work with, all without being an unpaid intern or a disgruntled assistant who only knows their products.

For instance, I’ve learned exactly which event companies I would and would never work with. As well as the entire scope of the exhibitions and events industry, while working at Mash Media.

From here, you can look at the stability of the event typology of exhibitions, and to get to know that best practice can be learned from well-established exhibition organisers like Montgomery Group, William Reed and CloserStill Media, as they all have all raised inspirational employees to create their very own independent shows, such as The Clean and Tidy Home Show, Translateable, and The National Running Show. This is the stability that young people crave coming into the industry, and this often inspires us to carve their own events.

I’ve also seen some incredible communities coming out of companies and training programmes like CloserStill Media and Easyfairs’ robust graduate schemes. This needs to be replicated throughout the industry, but focusing on these companies when looking at the exhibitions industry will be immensely helpful and as all of us have admirable advocates for the exhibitions industry.

I know that some incoming event professionals may not see the exhibitions industry as one of the most ‘exciting’ sectors of events. However, I promise it has its moments! If you work for a company like dmg events, Tarsus or Elite Exhibitions, you could be running exhibitions in Milan, LA, Singapore or Miami. Or if you’re more into tech, exhibitions have higher margins to experiment with innovations on the show floor. The magic of face-to-face is jam-packed into this compressed 2/3 day exhibition event, even with the rise of year-round communities who make a pilgrimage to events like The Allergy Shows, The Gin to my Tonic and International Confex.

Honestly, I have spent over a year in awe of the courage, resourcefulness, and damn right genius of the exhibitions industry and honestly, if we want to see how to secure, nurture and retain talent, we need to look here.

Add me on LinkedIn and DM me if you would like any more recommendations, or information regarding the exhibitions industry from the POV of a newly emerging events prof.

By Georgina Kay

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