XPO Events

© Bob Denton 2019
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Adobe Live

Adobe had been a big exhibitor at MacExpo and invited me to quote to run a show for them, later named AdobeLive. For an exhibition organiser this was a perfect deal because Adobe had strong databases of potential exhibitors, speakers and visitors, and as we were fully official there was a real demand to participate.

Adobe Live Showguide

 Adobe Live Showguide

My only disappointment was that there were some great workshops and seminars that would have been perfect for me to attend personally, but I was too busy with the show.

Adobe also provided the marketing for the event, which assured it of being on message.

AdobeLive seminar area

It was a great show that never quite achieved acquiring the perfect venue. It had to be held at a particular time of the year which was when most venues were already very busy with long-term incumbent events. We tried several unusual configurations, but in most we had to build the seminar venues out on the floor, which was expensive and could never really achieve an adequate sound-proofing.

Quark 7 tour

Much the same thing occurred with Quark. They approached us to run the pan-European launch of its ‘Quark7’ software. These were one-day events to be held across a month in Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Stockholm and Utrecht. We cleared this with Adobe because they do of course overlap in some of their software offerings, but they raised no objection.

Quark wanted us to offer attendees a fun day out – offering meals, snacks and soft drinks, there was a chill-out area with bean bags, devices playing lounge music with noise-reduction headsets, and we took a masseuse with us to relieve any attendees’ or participants’ stresses. All attendees were given Quark7 T-shirts and flip-flops. Each event consisted of the launch, a set of seminars, and a small exhibition of partner companies.

We were asked to book interesting venues and commissioned customised Nimlok fixturing, staging, AV kit, cabling and support equipment. We arranged for exhibitors’ standard-format signage to be made and brought them along with us, we also offered to transport the exhibitors’ brochures and kit between venues so they need only turn up for a turnkey base.

As with all sorts of events like this, a great team-spirit evolved as we unloaded our truck and built the event to fit the venue. At London we held it at the TUC HQ. In Frankfurt we were attached to the Zoo where peacocks wandered into the room several times, fortunately none of them gave out their annoying call, but we did hear lions grumbling nearby. Stockholm had the best views, Madrid had the best tapas.

Matt and Mark rode their ludicrously over-powered motorcycles down to Milan, equipped with walky-talkies for inter-bike comms. But they lost contact passing under the Alps. Matt made a solo run to the Channel with the momentous satnav message ‘In 600 miles turn left’.

But the real fellowship derived from the fact that at every venue we quickly found a local Irish bar that became our base for food and drink. This was a great gig to have organised.

Nikon

A third such similar occurrence was with Nikon, they asked us to run an annual event for them, It became Nikon Solutions Expo.

One of the prime requirements was to have features that would allow visitors to try and be coached in the latest Nikon equipment and techniques. One featured a wedding couple:

Wedding shoot – at Nikon Solutions Expo

We also set up some martial arts specialists, but perhaps the best was a famous ‘Fleet St’ photographer who gave demos of how tough it was to get a paparazzi shot. A model came out with his head under a raincoat and ran the gauntlet with prizes for anyone who did manage to get a face shot.

Expomedia

We proposed to sell MacExpo to the Expomedia Group, but they naturally asked us to get some letter from Apple to confirm they were content for us to use the show name.

Apple was the pre-existing name of a number of the Beatles operations, most notably Apple Corps Ltd and Apple Records formed back in 1968. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne had only formed Apple Computer on All Fools’ Day, 1st April 1976. Apple’s launch attracted the attention of The Beatles. About this time a British barrister, when asked to identify the group by a judge in another court case, reputedly described it in a pompous and out-of-touch manner, ‘I believe they are a popular beat combo, m’lud.’

In 1978 this beat combo sued Apple Computer for infringement of its brand.  It took until 1981 for the two parties to resolve a one-off payment of $80,000 to grant the right to use Apple with computers.  But the agreement also stipulated that Apple Computer would not market audio or video products with any recording or playback capabilities.  There was clearly no inkling at Apple about the forthcoming MIDI protocol (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) launched three years later in 1984, or the multimedia systems that would become essential for PCs later in the 1980s, and certainly there was no consideration of iTunes or iPods way back then.  As a result Apple Computer and The Beatles would meet in court regularly on these matters.

Thus, Apple Computer became heavily litigious down the years, so it came as an enormous surprise that I was able to get Apple’s exhibition manager in Cupertino to give me a formal note that confirmed they had no hassle with the usage of our show’s name provided we added the word ‘Live’, we became MacLive Expo – the sale to Expomedia could proceed.

I said farewell to my team, which consisted of my son, Matt, and honorary son, Mark. It was just as well we parted in good spirits because just a few weeks later Expomedia invited me to a meeting of several show owners they had recently acquired. The meeting was to discuss the future, I engaged in lively debate with them. They then approached me and offered me the dual role of UK Events Managing Director and globally their Group Events Strategy & Development Director, in under a month I was again Matt and Mark’s boss – you can imagine just how thrilled they were!

Expomedia Group and
UK business cards

There were a few issues because of course I still had Adobe Live and Nikon Live events to organise, but we agreed I could do that from my Expomedia office. Though as we worked together it became quite clear they expected me to drop the shows, which I eventually did as cleanly as I could.

Jane was none too pleased that having sold much of the business that, rather than retire, I was prepared to get sucked back in so readily. But her concerns were somewhat assuaged when I pointed out that I would have to travel broadly and would always, at my expense, have her join me – for example we soon went to Mumbai, New Delhi and Moscow.

We were on an acquisition trail in the UK and part of my role was to bring in these acquisitions, to maximise growth and profits and convert them to an Expomedia look-and-feel. But I soon found that there would be regular interruptions from above, particularly with personnel, and that is precisely why I had tended to run my own organisation in the past. The Group Managing Director was an Austrian, based as often there as in Watford, so communications were not great

It came to a head when one of my UK event show managers, that I had inherited, confessed to me that he did not have the required skills for the role. I offered him three ways forward, we might jointly look for another more suitable role, or he could leave at the end of the month or week and have farewell drinks with his colleagues, or he could leave immediately. His choice was to go immediately, so I arranged the necessary documents accordingly.

Imagine my surprise when the Austrian called me incandescently saying I should have got his buy-in to this before actioning it. Remember this was not a group activity, but a UK one where I was the MD with, I believed, the power of hire and fire, certainly there had been no arguments over my hirings. I explained how fundamental this was to my role. Did he really expect me to have the meeting with this guy and then leave to call Austria for approval. He was unrepentant and so I overnight discussed with Jane that I was going to resign in the morning – she agreed with alacrity.

This time I had managed just seven months as an employee. After this I didn’t want to lurk in the UK because I knew I was likely to get sucked back into the business. So we bought a larger villa in Javea, where I could turn my attention to writing.

The grandkids together in Paris

PRINCES RISBOROUGH – 2006

4 Poppy Road, Princes Risboro, Bucks HP27 9DA

This small terraced Victorian home is on the edge of the town and a short walk from the station – with fast services into Marylebone.  We bought this as Matt’s bolthole and ours when we came back from Spain on visits. It was a seductive investment and kept us a base in the UK.  If you’ve followed this journey you will already appreciate that we are restless people and Spain was planned as a 5-year escapade! Sure enough we would sell this small UK property in 2010 and upgrade our UK bolthole with Longwick.

ILMER – 2007

Garden at Ilmer rented property

While seeking our property in Colomer Javea, we rented a bungalow for six months located in a very quiet rural location. We wanted somewhere where we could put out everything that normally lurked in the loft or the garage, so we could decide what would be sent to Spain, what would be kept in Risboro’ and what sent on to our daughter, in Paris as she was moving into a new home there.

At Ilmer we catalogued a large range of birds and other wildlife, often turning to a book that Richard had bought us when we moved into East Harptree. That time we got little usage because foot & mouth curtailed our planned walks. Sadly, these six months in Ilmer were during the winter and again limited somewhat what we saw.

© Bob Denton 2019
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