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Jump: a great leap forward for marketing exhibitions

I think I’ve just seen the future shape of marketing exhibitions. The Jump event, organised by Econsultancy and held today (October 13th) at Billingsgate in the City of London, was dynamic, exciting and well attended – there was a real sense of buzz. Unlike TFM&A, Internet World and AdTech, there wasn’t a bag-filler/tyre-kicker or time waster in sight.

How did they manage this? By a subtle change in format from the traditional marketing exhibition, where the emphasis is on selling stands whilst delegates enter free. In recent years, the exhibition organisers have been putting more and more emphasis on the integrated seminar programmes, which they recognise are the real reason why marketers make time in their busy diaries to attend. The prospect of aimlessly wandering the aisles of exhibitors, and being pounced on by a salesman, is no longer appealing, funnily enough.

As a result, these days marketing events are increasingly geared around the seminars, even though it’s the exhibitors who are footing the bill, with huge waves of activity as one session ends and participants spill out… usually heading straight for the exit.

The organisers of Jump have simply acknowledged this, and have spun the whole thing on its head. Instead of positioning it as an exhibition with some seminar streams, they’ve touted it as a multi-stream seminar-led event, with an exhibition and networking on the side. The exhibition area is smaller, less threatening, and more networking orientated, with small coffee bars and stand-up meeting tables literally everywhere. Hence, at Jump, networking is not just encouraged, it’s almost compulsory.

But there’s one more further reason why Jump succeeds where the others appear to be increasingly failing – for the organisers at least. That is admission fees for attendees: in this case £895 per delegate. That’s a massive fee – particularly when compared with ‘free’, as are TFM etc. Charging for admission means that visitors numbers for Jump are significant lower (less than 20 per cent of TFM, I understand) but that everyone who does attend is serious. They have come for a reason, and are going to extract maximum value from it. And this is absolutely key. Just as publishers have realised that, lovely as it is, ‘free’ isn’t a viable business model, so too increasingly are event organisers.

Charging attendees means organisers are less beholden on exhibitors for revenue – the event may be smaller, but its more focused and there’s more buzz. The only downside to this is that the event now hangs on the quality and objectivity of the speakers, and from my perspective some of these were still pretty much product pitches. It was no surprise that these were generally made by sponsors.

In this respect, whilst the event does make great strides, the sponsors do appear to still have too much influence, and to my mind Jump is therefore more of an exhibition than a conference (they don’t seem to use either word anywhere in their literature, which suggests bets being hedged!). But besides this relatively minor quibble, I was generally very impressed with Jump – congratulations to the organisers. It was a breathe of fresh air for marketing events.