PLASA 2012 Enjoys a Fitting End to an Era
PLASA 2012 saw a successful final chapter of the show's history at Earls Court, with high quality visitor attendance, a hugely popular Professional Development Program and a vibrant after-hours social schedule -- a fitting end to an era before the show begins anew at ExCel London in 2013.
Although the show attracted fewer visitors than last year, following a quiet -- and gloriously sunny -- Sunday, numbers picked up again for Monday and Tuesday, and after an unusually busy final day the overall visitor attendance reached 11,500 (subject to ABC audit). Despite anecdotal reports of reduced international turnout, the overseas attendance was in fact a robust 25% of the total count, compared with 26% in 2011. The overall response from exhibitors, however, was vintage PLASA -- excellent quality visitors and good levels of business -- plus a strong sense of the buzz returning to the marketplace.
It was also clear that the seminars, presentations, and debates taking place in the purpose-built theatres in Earls Court 2 had been a resounding success with exhibitors and visitors alike. Registration for seminars showed more than 100% increase on last year. In all, more than one third of the attendees saw one or more of the sessions.
The variety of topics, the quality of the content and the enthusiasm and professionalism of the presenters provided a "something for everyone" experience. Students who had travelled from Nottingham to learn from "guys who are actually doing it and telling it how it is -- we would never get stuff like this at home," were obviously impressed. James Simpson, lighting visualizer from the Royal Opera House and a presenter himself commented: "The range of seminars was relevant and interesting. I managed to get along to four or five and felt I learned something from all of them -- the term 'professional development' was very appropriate in that I felt I learned a lot from each one."
From the very first sessions on Sunday, visitors took full advantage of the sessions that were on offer. On a baking hot afternoon, The Backstage Academy presented to a full house in Theatre D, while "LED Theatrical Luminaires: Are We There Yet?" had to be relocated to the larger Theatre A to accommodate the audience. The crowds that arrived to see some of the sessions that had been sold out before PLASA had begun were described as "simply overwhelming."
The presentations that celebrated the industry's involvement in this summer's extravaganza of events proved, not surprisingly, to be the highlights of the program, with more than 550 people seeing the sessions on the Olympics Ceremonies presented by technical director Piers Shepperd.
"The PLASA 2012 organizers would like to thank all the contributors for their invaluable input. Through their effort and commitment, the Professional Development Program has become an integral and unmissable part of the PLASA experience and promises to go from strength to strength at our new home in 2013." Comments show manager Sophie Atkinson.
Once again, the Earls Court Conference Centre played host to the PLASA Rigging Conference where delegates gathered from all corners of the globe to listen to industry experts, share good practice and debate the future structure of rigging on an international level. The legendary Disney rigger, Roy Bickel, opened the conference with a thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and informative speech about his influence on the development of modern rigging over the last 50 years which was enthusiastically received by the packed audience. The conference, a near sell-out event, was attended by 156 delegates from around the world.
Out on the exhibitor floor there was a vibrant buzz. Over half of this year's exhibitors were displaying worldwide product launches and with 47 entries in the Awards for Innovation, sponsored this year by AED Rent and Lighting&Sound International, there was a strong emphasis on ground-breaking technology. The coveted Gold Award went to Cast Software for their BlackTrax 6D tracking system, an Ethernet-based, software and hardware solution that tracks objects or people in a defined 3D space and delivers the dynamic positional data in realtime to other entertainment systems like 3D audio, moving lights, robotic cameras, and media technologies.
Phil Ion of Core Lighting whose new Worklight was an entry in the Innovation Awards and who distribute their products through White Light, echoed the feedback of many exhibitors: "PLASA 2012 has been really good for us. We've got a lot of high quality leads and have seen a large number of international customers from as far away as Hong Kong and Australia -- more this year than in 2011."
It wasn't only the high end of electronic technology that enjoyed a strong presence this year. J&C Joel, a leading supplier of flame-retardant fabrics, launching 36 new products to the market, were swamped with visitors throughout the show. Head of marketing Claire Taylforth explained: "There is no substitute for the 'touch and feel' of our products. To fully understand the new Oeko-Tex standards program customers want to see the product live rather than on a screen. All our staff have been really busy every day -- it's been really worthwhile -- and fun."
From small, specialized suppliers like Atlantic Star from Latvia displaying the new ORBIS XL and ORBIS Fly lighting solutions to Foy Inventerprises, Inc. from Las Vegas, Nevada, whose Flying By Foy service is one of the most respected performer flying services in the world, PLASA's exhibitor list remained as diverse as ever.
A strong international flavor was, as always, proof of PLASA's global reputation as one of the most important trade shows of the calendar. Speaking on the final afternoon of the show, Nexo's sales director Denis Baudier said the show had been "very good," for the company with a particularly strong international attendance. He added: "A lot of our export customers are coming here, so with PLASA coming six months after ProLight&Sound in Frankfurt it's a great opportunity for us to talk with them about their view on the second part of the year. In fact, we have possibly seen more international visitors than UK this year."
The decision for PLASA to relocate eastward to ExCeL London for 2013 was naturally a hot topic of conversation on the show floor. ExCeL and its facilities have formed part of the London 2012 Olympic success and PLASA is eager to exploit all that the new venue has to offer for the benefit of its members. "ExCeL is a cutting-edge, purpose-built exhibition venue with the infrastructure to attract international markets," comments PLASA CEO Matthew Griffiths. "Its world-class facilities are the perfect match for PLASA's planned investment in content and growth and an exciting prospect for the entertainment technology markets worldwide."
Members who have already experienced what ExCeL has to offer concur. Andrew Richardson from Adam Hall Ltd remarks: "I've attended ExCeL for many exhibitions and it's set up in a much better way to handle big exhibitions. A venue with an airport within walking distance has to be a good thing -- PLASA is an international show."
Core Lighting's Phil Ion agrees: "The venue is really well set up for shows -- the exhibition space is great, the number of hotels and availability of rooms there makes it easy to plan. We've always found transport in and out of the area to be a breeze, which I know some people are concerned about. Whereas Earls Court is divided into two halls, at ExCeL we'll all be in together, which I think will bring a whole new feel to the show. We're very excited to be part of it."
PLASA succeeds as a unique experience for exhibitors and visitors through the buzz and dynamism of the people who attend. As Malcom Burlow from Highlite says: "There's a great vibe and buzz at the Show this year. I've been coming to Earls Court for 20 years; people love coming to London for the PLASA Show and I can't wait for next year, wherever it is!" Koi Neminathan, sales director at Avolites, is also unequivocal: "London is our home market and wherever PLASA moves we will be there!"
OHM's Clive Kinton agrees: "This last year at Earls Court has been as good as any over the last two or three years and we look forward to the move to ExCeL. It will be a fresh start for the PLASA Show and could be really good for the industry."
ExCeL London provides a huge, campus-based experience for visitors only five minutes' drive from London City Airport and is well served by the London Docklands Railway that proved such a success at the Olympics this year. It is 30 minutes to the West End via the Jubilee line and the recently-opened cable car links to the O2 Arena. PLASA 2013 promises to be bigger, fresher, and the beginning of a whole new chapter for PLASA and its members.
The PLASA Show is owned by the industry and is proud to report that a whopping 65% of the floor space for PLASA 2013 has already been reserved -- a massive endorsement of the only entertainment technology event anywhere to reinvest its revenue back into the industry it serves. The PLASA organizers say: "We look forward to seeing you all at ExCeL London from 6 - 9 October 2013."
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