BLOG: Here’s hoping PLASA can ExCel in its new home
Paul Milligan, September 14, 2012
As the last ever PLASA exhibition at Earl’s Court comes to an end before its move to ExCel in east London next year, Paul Miligan shares his thoughts on the show’s past, present and future.
There was much sadness among the grizzled, pony-tailed, pierced and bearded pro-audio veterans that PLASA has held its last exhibition at Earl’s Court.
Next year sees a new venue – ExCel (more on that later) and a new time slot (early October instead of early September).
I have always enjoyed the show, and this year was my seventh. I can remember coming home each day on my first visit with a thumping headache due to the constant barrage of sound, light, lasers and smoke. By like all good gigs/club nights it was sign you had enjoyed a good time.
It was rather sad to see the show this year smaller than I have ever seen it.
High profile absentees like Tannoy meant the show had a lot more seating areas and wider aisles than ever before – which anyone who has ever worked in exhibitions/publishing will know is show organiser code for ‘we haven’t sold as much exhibitor space as we would have liked to, and we need the place to look busy”.
As a journalist at an exhibition you are often used as a sounding board or even a measuring stick for how well/badly an event is doing. “It’s great/rubbish this year isn’t it?” etc..
Something we heard again and again was “Where have all the loudspeaker companies gone?” and “It’s all lighting and smoke machines this years” and it was hard to disagree.
The biggest stands seem to belong to the likes of Avolites and Robe, wheres companies such as Shure, Sennheiser, Sound Technology and Polar Audio were all on noticably smaller stands than in previous years (another reason the show felt smaller this year).
One by-product is the show is a far quieter place these days, which is a real shame. Let’s not forgot, we work in audio and video, not insurance, so a bit of noise is good from time to time.
Another point made to us repeatedly was the lack of international visitors this year, with a couple saying the show has become parochial.
There did seem to be slightly fewer foreign badges/accents on display this year, but we don’t have any concrete proof of that. Saying that when we spoke to (the always cheery) Paul Ward and Adam Breeze at Bosch they were delighted at the number of new foreign contacts they had made at the show, so considered their stand a great investment.
One thing I would say is that it seems crazy to hold the show over four days. The Sunday must surely be scrapped going forward. Only footballers and priests work at the weekend, and by all accounts the day, which used to be ‘DJ day’ before the show dropped DJ equipment from its remit, was very quiet.
If a show like ISE can be run over three days, then there is no reason whatsoever for PLASA to last for one day more than that, given its smaller, with less visitors.
ANother point to make is about students. I acknowledge there should be a way for them to feel part on industry they are (hopefully) about to join, and an exhibition can help do that, especially at a time when getting young talent into the AV industry seems so difficult.
But scores of teenagers, hunting in packs, with zero purchasing decision making power, who seem more intent on collecting free pens/bags/memory sticks etc would irk me greatly if I had paid several hundred thousand pounds on an exhibition stand, with the intention of selling my product/building new business.
I really hope the move to ExCel is a positive one for the show. I have always enjoyed the PLASA show, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. But I have my reservations about ExCel. Apparently its great to exhibit at, as you dont have the traffic problems of Olympia/Earl’s Court.
But therein lies the rub, it doesnt have the traffic problems of those venues becuase they are in central London, and ExCel is most definitely not in central London. It’s not handy for anyone/anything – unless you work at a bank in Canary Wharf (I don’t).
As one exhibitor pointed out, foreign visitors will book a trip to PLASA becuase it’s London, and they can tack on a day before or at the end of their trip to go shopping/sightseeing/book distributor/reseller meetings etc.
I’m not convinced a trip all the way out to Custom House on the DLR will give them that same ‘London’ feeling, and if international visitor numbers are dropping, then is a move to ExCel the way to increase their numbers? I doubt it.
As I have said in previous blogs, if we want exhibitions to survive and prosper we MUST support them, by exhibiting or visitings. If they die, they we lose to right to moan about its passing.
I raelly hope ExCel will invigorate the PLASA show, and we will continue to support and visit the show. I just have my doubts about ExCel (and that counts for BETT’s move there as well, if the PLASA team think I am singling them out).
Maybe the answer is for us all to pressure Boris into building a new, modern, built-for-purpose central London conference and exhibition space? Then we could all enjoy a bustling and noisy PLASA show.