Ed Several first attended the P.G.A. Merchandise Show as an exhibitor. He was a marketing executive for Spalding/Top Flite Golf and admits he was rather vocal about how he thought the trade show could be improved. “And one day they said, ‘If you have so many ideas on how to run a show, why don’t you come over and try it,’” he says. So he did.
That was in 2004. Now, 10 years later, Several is a senior vice president for Reed Exhibitions, overseeing 11 shows in six industry sectors in the United States and Mexico. Under Several’s leadership, the shows have posted substantial growth in recent years. He attributes the increases to a strategic and consistent system of listening to his customers. “It’s all research-based. We heavily survey,” he says. “And my team and I are constantly talking with our clients—whether it be attendees or exhibitors—asking how can we do better. Our ideas come from listening, gaining insight, and taking action.”
The P.G.A. Merchandise Show provides several examples of that strategy. When surveys revealed that the cost of the show was a barrier to attendance, Several created a prepaid pass in 2011 that provided housing and meals for just $200 per day. The following year, he initiated live-streaming from the show floor to give the public a glimpse inside the private business event, creating added value for exhibitors. The effort has grown each year, and at the most recent show in January, the Golf Channel broadcast live each day from a set on the show floor.
In addition to serving the needs of exhibitors, Several has initiated updates to the show’s educational program to generate more interest among attendees. This year he brought in organizations such as the Disney Institute and Turner Sports to provide content. Several also allowed attendees to purchase tickets to individual sessions based on surveys that revealed many weren’t purchasing the full-day passes because time constraints meant they could only make it to one or two sessions. The updates were well-received: more than 850 people registered for the education conference this year, up from 420 in 2013.
As they find ideas that work at one show, Several and his team of 50 associates consider whether they could work for other shows in the portfolio of 11 shows he oversees. Three years ago they created an Inventor’s Spotlight at the National Hardware Show, based on input that the show needed a forum for people with a patented idea that was not yet commercially available. It was so successful that Several created a similar opportunity at the P.G.A. Merchandise Show last year and is looking to do the same thing at other shows in the future. “We take that customer-centric approach in everything we do to improve their business outcomes,” Several says. “Which is why these shows are successful and growing.”