Five minutes with Harvey Stockbridge, Managing Director, Informa Exhibitions Australia.

By Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia, 8 August, 2014

What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?
My career started in Scientific and Technical magazines working my way through the ranks from Classified Sales exec, all the way through to Group Manager, but I found that the conceptual side of magazine ad sales transferred well into the events space. I started out on large scale telecoms industry events across the UK, Europe and US, then moved to Australia with Informa, first running the sponsorship and exhibition business, then marshalling the growth agenda into Exhibitions and Trade shows, completing the acquisition of Australia’s last significant independent organiser back in 2010. I’ve been at the helm of this business since acquisition pursuing logical growth plans.


What do you think makes the Australian event and exhibition industry special?
For a long time we have been isolated (geographically) from other hubs of industry excellence around the world. This isolation has not held the Australian market back, instead has forced high level innovation, world class event delivery, strong supplier base and great venues. Unlike the European, US or Asian markets, Australian focused events (there are exceptions) won’t draw large international audiences, so organisers have looked into the verticals and niche markets for organic growth. I love this aspect of the Australian exhibitions space, organisers from other geographies could learn a lot by looking at what we do here. We are squeezing every ounce of opportunity out of our relative market scale.


What makes exhibitions so unique and successful as a marketing medium?
Businesses (successful ones!) want long lasting “deep” relationships with customers. No other marketing channel provides this immediate cut-through and one-on-one interaction that can be the catalyst to profitable relationships. Over the past 25 years, I have been excited by technological change that has made marketing channels more immediate and accessible, however most formats come and go, but face to face at events has been constant. I love the way technology can simply enhance the customer experience on-site and enable our medium to influence our communities all year long. Our job now is to translate the effective role of events into the language that the wider media landscape understands – Experiential, Brand Activation, and Live! -that will start to see the exhibitions industry form the core of a client’s future marketing mix.


Informa are launching some new events in 2014, what major trends are you seeing in terms of consumer needs and how do events fulfil these?
Our growth plan forces us to look for communities united by a passion. These “Tribes” will form the basis for Informa’s launch plans over the next few years. In the consumer landscape, bricks and mortar retail outlets struggle to engage consumers as their discretionary spend migrates online. This shift creates opportunities for event organisers like me, to create the live experiences that will draw these communities together, providing an excellent platform for brands to engage with them in an independent environment. We are finding that providing unique, valuable content is the most powerful way to engage with these groups


What major challenges does launching a new show bring about and how do you overcome these?
The biggest challenge is to recognise the factors that go into making a strong launch – market need, exhibitor and visitor assessment, PEST and SWOT analysis, all need to be thoroughly completed before we determine if we’re going to launch an event. Armed with this evidence, there still lays an enormous risk, balanced against the large financial investment that goes into the launch plan. The main thing is to be brave enough to admit that your great idea isn’t so great after all, before $$$ and time are wasted. Informa Exhibitions intends to launch at least two new shows every year for the next 3 years, starting with Vitality in 2014 and the Australian Triathlon & Endurance Expo in 2015, closely followed by other new launches soon to be announced.


What do you see are the benefits of having Young Stars in the workplace?
First of all, by virtue of taking the initiative to join a collective such as Young Stars, demonstrates to me a desire to progress and develop within the industry. This would be something I would look out for as a prospective employer of choice. It’s vital we develop a breeding ground of future leaders, who get the chance to share experiences, collaborate and define the future direction for Australian events industry amongst their industry peers.


What major changes do you foresee happening in the industry that will impact upon Young Stars?
Each organiser will be forced into building new event formats and portfolios as mature events reach their full growth potential. This means we will look at using venue space differently, perhaps build new physical experiences, engaging with visitors via new emerging channels, sell exhibition and brand activations to a more educated marketing team. All of these changes create wonderful new opportunities for the Young stars, to make their mark in this dynamic growth environment.


Can you give any advice to Young Stars looking to progress their career in events and exhibitions?
Have a global mindset! There are so many work/life experiences out there that can help shape the way you think about our industry. You are young enough to grasp these opportunities, learn, develop, and then contribute to the future success of the Australian exhibition and events industry.

Source: Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia