Specialised Exhibitions – Shaping its Future for the Next 50 Years

For South Africa’s well-known and highly respected trade show organiser, Specialised Exhibitions, the last five years have seen its portfolio of exhibitions performing well, achieving growth and enjoying strong exhibitor and industry support. “Our ability to look ahead, embrace change and integrate latest technologies into our business is what drives the on-going success of our exhibitions; it also enables us to identify and develop new opportunities that add value for stakeholders and to continue to deliver high-impact shows,” says MD, Gary Corin. “Our success is also underpinned by the people who work for us. We have a young and demographically diverse team on board and have created a vibrant, energetic and forward-thinking environment that keeps us at the forefront of our industry.”

The last five years has also seen Specialised Exhibitions celebrate its 50th anniversary; 2017 marked five decades of serving the exhibition industry. The memorable anniversary event was attended by industry partners, exhibitors, suppliers, media, employees past and present, shareholders and owners, and was a fitting celebration of a company that has stood the test of time with strong leadership, high values and unwavering ethics. A company that has built a reputation for consistently delivering shows of excellence across a broad spectrum of industries.

“Sound strategic decisions have ensured the company’s continued financial strength and stability, and its ability to meet the needs of the industries it serves,” Gary notes. “Currently our business has two distinct portfolios of business: the Industrial Portfolio led by director Charlene Hefer, which includes Electra Mining Africa, the Local Manufacturing Exhibition and our African exhibitions. The Light Industrial Portfolio, which includes Propak Africa and Propak Cape is led by director Mark Anderson, who has recently been appointed to the Board.”

“Changes in our marketing structure has seen the fusion of the marketing department with the exhibition portfolios. This has created a specialist marketing service that can offer unique sets of skills in support of each exhibition, working alongside the portfolio directors. Our team of young marketing professionals are well versed in digital and online marketing, and as career focussed millennials they are having a positive impact on our business.”

Specialised Exhibitions is a division of Montgomery Group, one of the most widely respected exhibition companies in the world with trade shows, consumer shows and specialist projects spanning Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In Gary’s view, being part of a diverse, purposeful, international group is beneficial for the business and for stakeholders. “It enables us to ‘think global and act local’ and keeps us up-to-date on international trends and global market dynamics.

For the past almost two years, the industry has been curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This saw the cancellation and postponement of exhibitions and events globally, also having a ripple effect on the entire ecosystem of venues, suppliers, and associated business tourism. “The pandemic has had a major impact on the market dynamics of the exhibition and events industry; an industry built on face-to-face interaction and relationship building,” explains Gary. “Within weeks, it came to an abrupt halt. Online meetings and digital events filled the void and have been supportive in the maintaining of existing business relationships, but the face-to-interaction is greatly missed, especially in the development of new business relationships. Yes, the world is ever changing and yes, more meetings and sales discussions will continue through online meeting platforms, but face-to-face will always have a place as it facilitates growth, facilitates trust, and satisfies the gregarious and social nature of people. With exhibitions back on the calendar in many countries, the support from both exhibitors and visitors has been extremely positive. Trade shows continue to offer a cost-effective way to reach a high volume of purchase decision makers in a short space of time.”

Last year in November, the Restart Expo, an initiative created by Specialised Exhibitions and Johannesburg Expo Centre, provided an opportunity to demonstrate to the authorities how exhibitions and events can take place safely with all the required Covid-19 health and safety protocols in place. “We enhanced the face-to-face experience with the latest online and digital technologies,” Gary relates. “A real-time counting system ensured that the number of attendees did not exceed the maximum number of people allowed; a paperless system was in place with online registration, QR codes to download the digital visitor protocol, seminar programme and visitor guide; and live streaming of the conference speakers.” Gary continues, “It is likely that hybrid style events will continue in the future, innovatively created to suit individual events. It will not be ‘one-size-fits-all’. ”

As the industry opens up globally, an international trend emerging is that regionalised exhibitions and events are coming back first. The big international exhibitions will take a while longer in coming back, but they will be back in time, Gary maintains. A list of our 2022 exhibitions can be found at www.specialised.com