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Opinion: To exhibit is to innovate

Anne Jamison

Anne Jamieson

By Anne Jamieson, director of customer experience and optimisation at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Innovation is everyone’s favourite buzzword at the moment as we try to stimulate further growth within the business events industry. We’re constantly looking for ways to revolutionise how we do business, transform our product offerings and connect with those who have the knowledge and influence to make it happen.

What many often forget is that the exhibition industry has been busy innovating for centuries.

Exhibitions are responsible for bringing companies and customers together within the same physical space, a core element for stimulating innovation.

In fact, the exhibition industry has always done what technology and the internet have been trying to do for the last 30-40 years; bringing people together to generate ideas, demonstrate new products and trial innovations.

I have experienced and participated in exhibitions all around the world, across dozens of countries, and it has been the power of exhibitions that has time and time again been a major catalyst for business innovations and their success.

Traditional and non-traditional industries meeting to brainstorm, partner and collaborate on ways to do business and address global issues at an exhibition is truly priceless, and there is still something unique about being there in person, interacting with people in the flesh, that technology simply can’t replace when it comes to generating new ideas.

The exhibitions industry recently celebrated its first ‘Global Exhibitions Day’ in early June, created to acknowledge the powerful role exhibitions play in igniting innovation, trade and business development.

It was a great opportunity to look back at what the industry has achieve and reflect on how important it is to provide a face-to-face medium to build relationships, do business and stimulate innovation.

We marked the occasion at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre by hosting an Oration with futurist and innovator, Justin Baird, who reiterated that exhibitions have never been more relevant than they are in today’s tech-focused world.

During his presentation he reflected on his experience launching and demonstrating Google’s Android (smartphone operating system) for the first time publicly at a mobile exhibition in Australia. They utilised the power of the exhibition to showcase the new product features and gather public feedback, kick-starting the product’s global success.

It goes without saying that the presence of technology will continue to grow within the events industry, with the rise of mobile applications and virtually reality is rapidly expanding, but they should be seen as a value-add, rather than looked upon with fear that they will make our industry less relevant.

Justin made the important observation that there is still no technology solution that harnesses all five senses. When you attend an exhibition you see, hear, taste, smell and touch your way through the experience, and it is our own personal, physical experiences that enable us to generate ideas.

He also highlighted the fact that exhibitions give you access to those you might not otherwise reach, those with the influence or financial backing to make it all happen. People can choose to delete emails or reject phone calls, but when you’re standing in the same place, at the same time, you step onto an even playing ground and you’re given the opportunity to build a genuine relationship.

Without exhibitions the opportunity to innovate would become less prevalent, and it is important that we continuing to remind others of this and celebrate the influential role our industry plays.

It is this power of exhibitions, as a marketplace for doing business and a driver of economic development, trade and export, visitation and knowledge sharing, that has allowed all industries to innovate for centuries, and one that I hope will continue for centuries more.

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