31 Jul 2013

ENTECH at crossroads

19 years on, what follows?

Founding ENTECH in 1994 we followed the best model at the time and mimicked the PLASA show in London. Sure enough our inaugural one hall show at Darling Harbour was heavy on moving light displays and short on pro audio.

You could almost see the same thing last month in Sydney, at the July 2013 ENTECH that actually had less exhibition space sold than that first show. If it weren’t for the co-location with SMPTE, it’s doubtful ENTECH would have survived the GFC.


The 2013 show was a success – good numbers of the right kinds of visitors, great displays and execution by the 65 exhibitors. But not enough audio, unless you went next door and trawled the two halls of broadcast exhibits at SMPTE and found nests of audio in there.

If the status quo were maintainable, the two shows would reappear in two years at Darling Harbour, which is by far the most popular trade show venue in Sydney, let alone Australia. But the complex will be shut down and replaced, leaving every trade show in limbo.

Reluctantly the state government of NSW agreed that losing all the conventions (which generate much more economic benefit to the state) was possibly a negative, so they took the easiest approach and announced a temporary trade show structure would be built on Glebe Island, a disused wharf with abysmal access since its railway branch line was pulled out.


The tradeshow organisers took a deep breath and rolled their events into the proposed Glebe Island Expo, which is located 4.5km from the city and at the end of a single lane road 1.5km from transport. There is no pedestrian access other than that road, which also feeds a new cruise ship terminal, subject of massive complaints about access.

Now it appears ENTECH, SMPTE and INTEGRATE will all pretend nothing is bad, and stage their shows after this year at the wharf site. Work has not yet commenced, but given the structure is a temporary facility recycled from the London Olympics, there is expertise somewhere in the world at bolting the thing together.



The problems that beset ENTECH arose after it was sold (by Juliusmedia) and its owners (Exhibitions, Trade Fairs or ETF, now owned by Staging Connections) ignored our advice to look after the manager, Louise Brooks. She left and started INTEGRATE because she could – ETF hadn’t bothered to put her on contract, reasoning she was disposable.

That first INTEGRATE defied the GFC and made a reasonable showing in 2009, which killed the February 2010 ENTECH stone dead. ETF took a big haircut and cancelled that show.

The 2011 ENTECH was the first co-locate with SMPTE in July, and was truly on life support. It only just stumbled over the line.

At the latest show, lessons from the past were cast aside and problems loomed with noisy on-stand audio demonstrations and ructions over a foyer display of an exhibitors goods. The load in was cruelled by lack of knowledge of timelines for rigging and power hookup – bugbears that didn’t matter in 2011 because that show didn’t have as many large stands. Loaders sat idle for almost there entire call times as trucks queued to get in. Complaints about poor services from contractors were common.

Over at CX Network, our July magazine was delayed by late info for the (included) ENTECH Visitors Guide that we published under contract. ETF were, it seemed, on a learning curve despite owning the show for nine years.

It would be easy to say a former owner can be bitter with objectivity, except that in our case it is just unprofessional to dick people around.



Now ENTECH heads off to the draughty Royal Exhibitions Building in Melbourne where it will sit in a smaller area as ENTECH – CONNECT next year. That smaller, more boutique version of the show will struggle to return a profit for its owners.

But the real crunch will be in 2015 when the co-located ENTECH / SMPTE proposition is scheduled at Glebe Island Expo. If exhibitors accept the promises of transport and ‘pop up’ restaurants and bars, visitors are less likely to be impressed.

To be clear, CX-TV News (July) has a report on the new site which is very exact and which hasn’t been challenged by anyone.

Meanwhile INTEGRATE runs in August (27-29, ) at Darling Harbour with a move outwards towards security IT and domestic audio visual. Under its new owners, the shift away from the traditional sound and lighting markets probably helped ENTECH this time around.

But no matter what the commercial tradeshow operators say (and we include the Expertise Events owned SMPTE event in this category), the purpose of tradeshows has changed with the internet. We’ve tracked this from 1994, when one Netscape browser on a 14kb dial up was all there was to have.

Return on investment is the mantra, and with voracious proprietors, greedy contractors and venues that gouge $34 for four hours of parking from visitors, the math gets harder.



1994: Darling Harbour, 1 hall (5,000m2)
1996: Darling Harbour, 1.5 halls (7,500 m2)
1997: Melbourne NCEC, 2 halls (8,000 m2)
1998: Darling Harbour, 1.75 halls (8,750 m2)
2000: Sydney Olympic Park, 2 halls (9,000 m2)
2002: Darling Harbour, 1.75 halls (8,750 m2)
2004: Darling Harbour, 1.5 halls (7,500 m2)
2006: Darling Harbour, 1.5 halls (7,500 m2)
2008: Darling Harbour, 1.5 halls (7,500 m2)
2010: Cancelled
2011: Darling Harbour, 0.6 hall (2,800 m2)
2013: Darling Harbour, 0.8 hall (4,000m2)

Note space shown is exhibitor occupied hall area, excluding media contra and seminar and filler spaces. Actual sold space is less as the figure above also includes aisles. Approximations.


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