It's in a class of its own

As the event director at FHG, Donna Bushell is responsible for organising IWEX. WET News editor Maureen Gaines caught up with her to find out what's happening behind the scenes to ensure next year's show is the biggest - and best - yet.

April 2010 will be an important month for two reasons. It is when the next capital maintenance cycle (AMP5) kicks off and, just as importantly, when water industry trade show IWEX takes place.

IWEX, which is organised by WET News and Water & Wastewater Treatment publisher Faversham House Group (FHG), will be held on April 20-22, 2010 at the NEC, Birmingham. Nearly 3,000 visitors attended IWEX this year, seeking the latest products and solutions being showcased for the water sector. This figure is in line with the attendance figure recorded for the show in 2008 - not bad considering the current economic downturn.

Planning for next year's show has already started with FHG thinking big - an extra 20% of floorspace has been allocated for IWEX exhibitors to create the perfect arena for them to showcase their innovative wares. The move is already paying dividends - companies have reserved more than a third of the floorspace earmarked for IWEX 2010 already.

This development stems from a recognition that the UK sector needs its own major annual water show.

Donna Bushell, the FHG events director responsible for Sustainabilitylive!, including IWEX, explains: "IWEX has become too encompassed within Sustainabilitylive!, and IWEX needs to have its identity back. We want companies involved in the water sector to have their annual industry event, and guiding us, the organisers, about how they see it developing.

"It's their show. There is no other major water show for the UK market, and we want to work with companies to develop it further and target the buyers that they want to see."

The planning for next year's show is still at the early stages but the overall aim is to attract the target audience that IWEX exhibitors want. To help achieve this, Bushell is already discussing with British Water the idea of holding a high-level two-day conference. She is also keen to encourage more interactive-style workshops.

Then the ever-popular Drilling & Tapping competition will be providing the thrills and spills and Bushell hopes that Mouchel's Shark Tank for showcasing new technologies will be back for a second year.

FHG bought IWEX in 2005 and established the event as an important and complementary part of Sustainabilitylive!, which also comprises the ET, NEMEX and BEX exhibitions as well as SB The Event.

Bushell takes up the story: "FHG bought IWEX to expand our environmental portfolio. This was done with the view of creating the largest environmental show for the UK market covering energy, land, environmental technologies, and water and effluent treatment."

She adds: "Research carried out demonstrated that there were plenty of innovations as well as a lot of changes happening within the water market that were reason enough to warrant having an annual event. You only have to look at the number of conferences each year, discussing new legislation, innovative processes for example, to see that companies do want an annual meeting."

Bushell also points out: "Whilst we want to re-establish the IWEX brand and reinforce its attraction to the water industry, we must emphasise that a high proportion of the show's visitors have an interest in energy and environmental issues. Similarly, visitors to NEMEX and ET do purchase and specify water and effluent-related products and services.

"This means co-location of these independent but related exhibitions really is a win, win situation."

In giving IWEX "back to the industry", Bushell and her team are establishing closer links with the various trade bodies, manufacturers and suppliers, as well as the water companies themselves. "Over the past year we've worked closely with companies and, as organiser, we want to hear their views."

Bushell makes a point of visiting IWEX exhibitors - past and present - to get their feedback and thoughts on IWEX and how they would like it developed. Some mention 2003 as being IWEX's heyday but, as Bushell points out, the water industry has changed a lot since then.

She says: "Where IWEX used to be a show where everybody involved in the water industry used to visit, that's not the case now. Companies send their four or five main buyers and specifiers, R&D experts, the decision-makers."

And it is not just IWEX that is experiencing this, adds Bushell. "I think all shows have changed from that viewpoint. You may not get the vast numbers as in the past, but those you do get are quality people, the decision-makers. With the way companies work now, people don't get out so much. They don't get to meet face to face so they do need an event that is worth going to."

And she emphasises: "No other show delivers more quality visitors than IWEX does. There is no other major event for the UK water industry."

To help attract the exhibitors' target audience time is spent developing the content for the technical seminar programme, the aim of which is "to give a snapshot view" about the topics and issues that concern buyers and specifiers.

This programme is developed with the help of a steering group, chaired by Bushell and comprising industry pundits from British Water, Water UK, CIWEM, Defra and the SBWWI. Bushell is aiming to broaden the group's spectrum by inviting "a couple of manufacturers or suppliers" to participate. She is in talks with companies, and expects to announce their involvement soon.

Bushell says: "In developing the IWEX, we are encouraging feedback from companies as well as from the trade associations' members. This is invaluable in ensuring the exhibition and seminars cover the topics and themes that tackle the needs of the industry. This input will ensure IWEX 2010 will be a show not to be missed."

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