The Business Down Under

On my recent vacation in Australia, I had a discussion about the state of the Aussie exhibition industry (among other things) with Jo-Anne Kelleway, CEO of the InfoSalons Group, the largest registration company in Asia with offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai.

Australia has approximately 22 million people living in a landmass the size of the U.S. (which has 311 million people) and has a strong, healthy and growing expo business, as evidenced by the recent building surge. Melbourne Exhibition Centre just finished an expansion and they are about to tear down the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, with plans to rebuild and double the size of the facility over the next three years. During the interim period, a 25,000-square-meter (about 270,000 square feet) temporary building will be used to house expos.

Many of the global show organizers are active in Australia, including Diversified Communications, Reed Exhibitions, Informa and Messe Hannover. There is also a mix of entrepreneurial privately held companies and some associations also produce shows.

InfoSalons is one of the leading technology companies in our business. They were using texted bar codes for attendee registration long before anyone else (nine years ago!) and now they send the bar codes via e-mails and use smartphone readers on site for badge retrieval.

I can’t believe in this day and age that show organizers are still mailing badges to attendees before the show. How much cheaper is it to send an e-mail and print on demand, rather than pay postage and printing costs? Realistically, chances are much higher that you’ll remember your phone than a printed piece of paper. FYI: On a global basis, only 50 percent of all badges mailed out for complimentary registration are picked up!

How would using newer technology affect your show’s bottom line? InfoSalons received the EEAA (Exhibition and Event Industry Austral-Asia) Best New Product Award for the Tracker App at its annual meeting last month. I like the idea of the app; it is a free download that allows exhibitors to scan badges from their smart phones, then decide during or after the show whether or not they want to pay for the leads through an “unlock” code.

It means that rentals of lead registration units are obsolete and exhibitors can pay a reasonable fee for attendee data.

On a personal note, although Australia is at the end of the world (a 14.5-hour flight from Los Angeles), it is one of the most beautiful, exotic yet comfortable and easy to travel within places I’ve ever been. The people are warm and friendly. The beaches are unbelievable and the interior quite vibrant with all kinds of unique plants and critters. It’s also a good place to do business.

Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information and a longtime global exhibition industry specialists helping U.S. show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and clone shows overseas. You can follow her on Twitter at @stephselesnick.