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Looking back at Service Management Expo 2014

The annual Service Management Expo (SME) happened for the 30th time last month, back in London after a number of years in Birmingham. The Facilities Show, with which SME is now co-located, celebrated its 15th birthday and the new venue, the ExCeL London centre, welcomed its 20 millionth visitor – all at the same time.

SME Cognito Stand

Impressive though these numbers are, it is not really what this event is all about. SME is for service-minded people to discover what is new, explore ways to improve their business and… And what?

I sneaked out of the office to visit the show on its second day, and try to answer that question. Unlike a couple of my fellow Coggers, my ticket was not inspected en-route to the ExCeL on the DLR and I arrived in plenty of time. It was my first visit to the ExCeL and I have to say it is huuuge! Perhaps not by world conference centre standards, but it certainly seemed massive when you are trying to find a coffee.

SME itself forms only a tiny part of UBM’s Protection & Management event, but was easily found with its own entrance and distinctive turquoise colour scheme (which we liked!) The number of exhibitors was disappointing though, and even those with a presence were not overwhelmed by visitors - “steady” is the word that a number of people used when I asked how it was going.

There was no separate, purely educational, conference stream this year, just the Solutions Theatre with product presentations from suppliers leading the agenda. The Solutions Theatre audience was equipped with headphones and listened along in a ‘silent disco’ style. This produced a slightly odd effect as they sat expressionless and lost to the outside world – hardly inspiring for the presenters I imagine.

Certainly the Cognito stand was busy throughout, and attracted visitors from all of the co-located shows. And the new software products that deliver fresh thinking on Operational Performance Management were extremely well received.

So, back to my question. Yes, SME worked as a showcase for suppliers, and I am sure visitors were able to pick up lots of knowledge from those suppliers. But, there was little opportunity for people to share experiences or network with each other – and that certainly felt like a gap. I am sure that some potential visitors were put off by it being simply an exhibition. And so my answer is “… and nothing”. A chance missed, but also an opportunity for next year’s event.

If you attended SME, I’d love to know what you thought of it. And if you did not attend, why not?

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