Making an exhibition of ourselves

Kim Mann, Krannich Solar, discusses whether large industry exhibitions, such as next month’s Ecobuild, are still worth making time and effort for in a maturing market

The footfall, enthusiasm and sense of aspiration at exhibitions in 2011, when the PV industry was first blossoming, was incredible. Everything was shiny and new, the PV industry was an exciting place to be and – until Greg Barker’s speech at Solar Power UK put the proverbial ‘spanner in the works’ that October – we were all busy meeting the manufacturers, suppliers and customers with whom we were going to prosper as our industry flourished.

Jump forward to a somewhat more challenging marketplace in 2014, and it’s perhaps not surprising that exhibitions are often viewed with scepticism or ambivalence. They’re expensive and time-consuming for exhibitors, often repetitive and logistically tiresome for visitors and they distract us all from our day-to-day business activity – not something any of us take lightly.

So are they still worth bothering with? Absolutely. Every time I go to a show such as Ecobuild, I’m struck by how refreshing it is to get face-to-face with prospects, customers and suppliers, in an environment where everyone is slightly removed from the day-to-day pressures of business and can remind themselves of the bigger picture.

Fundamentally, it all comes down to communication. As well as meeting new customers, we also get to find out what our existing customers love about us and what we could do better. Installers get to see, touch and compare products, manufacturers and suppliers all under one roof and in a way that is so much more tangible and engaging than any datasheet, website or brochure can ever be.

Healthy competition in an environment like this drives industry progress and excellence. So I invite you to join me in breaking out of the office routine, accepting the achy feet and tolerating the busy roads and trains because I believe that exhibitions are truly valuable for visitors and exhibitors alike. See you at Ecobuild!