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Event Review: Service Management Expo, London

Oct 28 • Features, Management • 1295 Views • No Comments on Event Review: Service Management Expo, London

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It has now been three years since the Service Management Expo moved from Birmingham to London as it became part of UBM’s wider Protection and Management event, but has this transformation been positive or negative for the event that was once widely believed to be Europe’s best show dedicated to the sector?

The first thing you realise when you arrive at UBM’s Protection and Management (P&M) Series, which takes up the entirety of the ExCel Conference and Exhibition Centre in London’s revitalised Dockland’s region, is that this is a collection of BIG shows.

The largest of the P&M events is IFSEC which serves the global Fire and Security industry and it alone take up the entire south side of ExCel’s mile long exhibition space. With delegates and exhibitors from across the globe it is a truly impressive event. However, there are other sizeable events at P&M too.

The Facilities Show, Safety and Health Expo and FIREX are all heavyweight shows in their own right, and in this context Service Management Expo (SME) can occasionally feel a little lost. It is probably no exaggeration that there are single stands within the IFSEC side of the event that are larger than the entirety of Service Management Expo, and whilst the colour of the carpet gives you a visual clue as to whether you are still in SME or have wandered off elsewhere, if you turn one way you’ll be surrounded by companies selling hi-vis clothing, turn another and it’s air conditioning units.

It is one of the perennial conundrums of the field service industry – that whilst as a horizontal industry it is essentially highly pervasive, it remains a niche sector, with a relatively small but passionate community at it’s heart.

Indeed, this has been the one constant criticism of SME ever since it left the NEC and joined it’s bigger brothers in London. In fairness, the exhibition organisers have listened to this feedback and tweaked the event year on year, to try to help SME maintain it’s own identity but it is one of the perennial conundrums of the field service industry – that whilst as a horizontal industry it is essentially highly pervasive, it remains a niche sector, with a relatively small but passionate community at it’s heart.

And actually when we take a step away from the mega-shows that surround it, and put SME in it’s context alongside other field service orientated shows then it is in fact a huge event in terms of the numbers of people in attendance.

In fact, this year UBM announced an incredible 1,911 visitors attended Service Management Expo, which was an increase of 35% on those that attended from 2015.

There was also a truly international flavour to the attendees this year with visitors from each of the 5 major continents walking around the expo across the three days. In context such attendance figures arguably make SME the largest event dedicated to the field service industries in the world. So just what is it that is attracting these delegates to London?

Where SME excels, is in that it is primarily an expo rather than a conference, so it provides a perfect platform for field service execs to get a look at a number of different solutions and vendors, check out software demonstrations and get their hands on some rugged hardware in one place.

According to a spokesperson at UBM the delegates who attended showed particular interest in lone worker safety, IT and cyber security, CRM, system integration, IoT, and recruitment. However, from our experience talking to delegates on the Field Service News stand, for many it was also an opportunity to just have a look at what new developments and tools were available in the industry.

An event, where field service companies can send their field service managers or supervisors to go out and get an overview of what tools are available, quickly and conveniently.

The one area that SME perhaps falls down on is in the Field Service Solutions Theatre, essentially a mini conference area in the middle of the Expo. With both Copperberg and WBR offering full conferences in Europe – with A list speakers talking to rooms full of senior field service executives, the conference-lite approach comes across as a little anaemic. All too often throughout the Expo, the sight of a vendor delivering a thinly veiled sales pitch to a handful of delegates could be seen in the theatre area.

This lack of high-end content would probably explain the relatively low percentage of senior executives amongst attendees, with UBM figures stating that 25% of those in attendance were director level. But SME’s greatest weakness is also it’s greatest strength. This isn’t an event all about top-tier conference sessions, or indeed one that senior directors will attend for networking with their peers. It is an event, where field service companies can send their field service managers or supervisors to go out and get an overview of what tools are available, quickly and conveniently.

In this regard SME remains an absolutely vital part of the field service calendar (the increase in attendance YoY is perhaps testament to this) and with no other Field Service Expo on the horizon, it will no doubt remain so.

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