Over the past few years I have noticed that the exhibitors’ reactions to the consultants has changed markedly. There was a time when consultants were treated with ill-concealed contempt. They were a “distraction”. They stopped the companies doing business directly with their customers. Why bother with the middle man when you can go straight to the cheque-signer?
This year there was a bumper showing from consultants and the exhibitors’ view of them has certainly matured. It seems that the true worth of a consultant was finally recognised. The industry has woken up to the fact that there are few “quick wins” in this market, times are tough. Consultants were recognised as being the perfect way to attack the market a little more strategically. They were recognised as the chief influencers that they are.
Those who have made the annual pilgrimage to the NEC will be familiar with the name badges handed out to delegates. But you may not be aware that the different coloured bands on them are for the benefit of exhibitors. One colour denotes “big spender”, another, “tight budget”, and another, “consultant”. Consultants can be spotted a mile off and this was the first year in my recollection where the exhibitors didn’t part like the Red Sea when consultants moved through.
The show itself was quiet – but there was an air of purpose as one moved from provider to provider. There were no ostentatious stands and very few gimmicks. There were chairs, tables, exhibitors and consultants – real business was done in Birmingham this year.