Is Timber Expo the right show?23 July 2011
Is Timber Expo the right show, at the right time and in the right place and how can the industry make the most of it and make it an event that stays the course?
Geoff Rhodes: The concept is great and the show brings together in the UK for the first time an event similar to the successful biennial Carrefour International du Bois in France. The key thing the first time around is getting the right people to attend. Every one of us exhibitors has commercial connections and contact with building professionals and we must work really hard to get them there.
David Venables: But we have to be absolutely sure of the target audience and for me that’s architects, specifiers, designers, engineers. We must bring in the outside world and create an event that becomes theirs so they can network, rather than see this as the timber industry’s big get-together. And you need to engage them over the years – it won’t be easy to do the first year.
Wendy Trott: Our biggest concern was that we didn’t want an exhibition that doesn’t promote the product to that wider market. And we’ve been concerned that architects don’t like to come out of London. But let’s do what we can to encourage them. A lot of the things being promoted at Timber Expo should give them some benefit and entice them.
Bryan Crennell: I also hope we’re not just educating ourselves and get some quality decision-making attendees. To do this, we need to inspire and motivate. We have to show them new products and innovations because that will stick with them for years. And as exhibitors we have a collective responsibility to go to our audiences now and create a groundswell for the show.
Rupert Scott: Timber Expo includes the In Touch with Timber conference (ITWT), aimed at architects and engineers. We feel the event has to be aimed at the top of the supply chain as this audience will pull the wood industry in. The conference will feature inspiring case studies – Tesco is heading one of the ITWT sessions and they plan to build 27 eco stores. That’s what we want – people and projects who inspire visitors to build with wood.
Wendy Trott: The quality of the speakers at ITWT will be a big draw. The Solid Wood Solutions exhibition in June was well attended because there were speakers from Marks & Spencer and Tesco and a lot of people went to hear what they were saying.
Geoff Rhodes: Getting high street names involved adds credibility to our message. As a result, we’re starting to be seen as an environmental solution, rather than the problem.
Tony Miles: I’d like to see anybody who influences the use of timber at the show. That includes government, which has a say in how timber can be used as a building product. We must also ask how we all get a piece of the pie from the show. Unlike some industries we still compete internally. Sheet materials compete against solid timber for example. The show should be about fighting timber’s competition.
David Venables: Our real advantage is the huge variety of product we can showcase to young designers, architects and government specifiers. They’ve heard of Finnforest and Coillte and Timbmet, but they haven’t seen the whole spread – every type of product for almost every type of application. And we’ve got these strong underlying [environmental and performance] messages behind our products.
Jon Stevenson: But I think we have to take a long-term view on the show. If you get the timber industry together in the first year that’s a start, but if you don’t hit your target of attracting architects and specifiers in year one, you shouldn’t just write it off.
Camilla Hair: Should we also be trying to inspire builders to come and see our products and what they can do? They have to take the architects’ plans and translate them into the buildings people want to live in. Surely we should be extending our target audience and bringing those people closer to the industry.
Tony Miles: We do have to find a way to engage sub-contractors with the show and use it to help educate them. The likes of Tesco and M&S are not only starting to audit the large construction companies, but also sub-contractors. That’s a massive change in how businesses work and there are a lot of guys who don’t realise the impact it will have on what timber and wood products they can and can’t buy.
Camilla Hair: That’s the point I’m making about widening the show’s audience to include sub-contractors because they’re the next link in the chain: they use our industry’s products. A visit to Timber Expo could benefit, say, members of the Federation of Master Builders. It might help open their eyes to new potential in the material they’re using and take on board our messages about legal timber.
I used to handle the PR for the lighting industry trade association. They wanted to get their message to architects and specifiers and to consumers at grass roots level. They staged a regular exhibition and focused on getting a wide selection of media along. This way their message filtered out to the people who employ the architects and use the products.
Loretta Sales: Timber Expo’s marketing has been to architects and designers, then on to contractors and builders, developers, merchants and RSLs, so it’s been broad. Collectively we can work on all these markets, but we mustn’t keep targeting the same database. We have to get some new energy.