Exhibition organisers unite to launch new industry association

Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO)
Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO)

Some of the largest and most successful exhibition organisers in Southern Africa, namely Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, MMI South Africa, Hypenica, Thebe Reed Exhibitions, Spintelligent, Terrapinn, The Wedding Group, SA Confex Services, TE Trade Events, Exposure Marketing, LTE and Synergy Business Events, have announced that they will be launching a new industry association – the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO). AAXO will be a powerful and cohesive voice that speaks on behalf of exhibition organisers specifically. It will focus on the urgent issues and unique challenges facing organisers and will prioritise market research and trend tracking in order to drive the constant innovation needed to keep the SA exhibition sector flourishing and profitable.

The formation of AAXO follows the decision from several organisers to break away from the umbrella body for exhibitions and events, EXSA. The intention is to create a platform with greater benefits for organisers, however AAXO will continue to engage and align with EXSA.
With the increased complexity evident in the industry, the shifting media landscape and the constant pressure on exhibition organisers to provide a return on investment for exhibitors, there is a need for improved leadership and an emphasis on flexibility and innovation.

Focused on this, AAXO will give members unique benefits, tailored to their requirements, in order to help them to stay competitive. These include: a company listing and listing of their exhibitions on the AAXO website; creating a BBBEE suppliers list; association social media engagement; member discounts from preferred suppliers; exhibition and organiser awards; and advice on venues in Africa. The Association of African Exhibition Organisers will add further value through legal and administrative support such as standardising legal agreements and documentation; offering a mediation facility in conflict situations; negotiating with government bodies on behalf of organisers; negotiate a SARS VAT ruling; and agreeing on a window period for staging competing exhibitions.

AAXO will have a considerable role to play in the promotion of the industry as a marketing channel, including conducting market research to highlight the value and return on investment that exhibitions can give to clients and to increase the body of knowledge around the growth and evolution of the international and local exhibition landscape. Lastly, the Association provides a channel to the Department of Trade and Industry, through initiatives such as the 2016 Trade Show Calendar, which lists AAXO member events.

Exhibitors will also benefit. Companies that take a stand at exhibitions organised by AAXO members will be assured peace of mind, given that the Association will act as a mediator between exhibitors and organisers, and negotiate a speedy resolution to any conflict that may arise.  Exhibitors will also receive tips and guidelines on exhibiting, and information about related workshops throughout the year. AAXO will also give their members workshops and training on exhibitor education, to enhance relations between the two groups.

Says Carol Weaving, Managing Director of Thebe Reed, “The decision to break away from EXSA has been an ongoing debate amongst organisers for a number of years. EXSA is very supplier-led and we feel that they are not serving the best interest of the organisers.

We believe that exhibition organisers need a collective voice to lobby various stakeholders. Priorities need to be on annual research and industry benchmarking, tracking trends and quantifying our industry in terms of its size and value. We feel that EXSA in its current form is introspective, slow and focused on internal issues and drivers. However, we are of course still willing to align with EXSA and have a working relationship with suppliers and venues to discuss common industry issues.”

“The new association will assist us in promoting the channel of exhibitions as a marketing medium. The research we aim to conduct will assist in gaining government trust and investment and we will also be able to assist exhibitors to gain funding and justify spend by calculating their Return on Investment”, adds Elaine Crewe, CEO of MMI South Africa.

Exhibitions remain a powerful medium to source new customers, engage with existing customers, build brand awareness, launch new products and generate sales leads. “But”, says Gary Corin, Managing Director of Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, “the economy has forced greater scrutiny into how marketing budgets are spent and companies
have been more selective in their choice of exhibitions and in their choice of exhibition organisers.”

Various portfolios of responsibility have already been allocated to a number of organisers to ensure the AAXO will benefit from their relevant expertise. Funding for the long-overdue industry market research has been secured through AAXO and this research will be of great advantage to all the members of the new association. The Association of African Exhibition Organisers aims to be fully functional by January 2016.