A real strength of the IGS is integration of commercial and technical activities at both national and international events. IGS Conferences are unique in the scale of commercial participation that complements the technical pro-gramme. Corporate Members are a critical part of an event through participation in the exhibition. This helps to attract delegates and contributes much needed revenue that often underpins financial success. However, there is a danger that the exhibition is visited only by delegates attending the IGS scientific programme and that the exhibi-tors gain little benefit from talking to these participants, many of whom are regular attendees at such events.
During planning for EuroGeo4 held in Edinburgh 2008, it became clear that there was concern among a significant number of the traditional exhibitors at EuroGeo Conferences. Many stated that they would not be exhibiting at the conference as they were disappointed with the access that was traditionally provided to potential new customers. The organising committee for EuroGeo4 led by Derek Smith responded to this situation by developing a strategy aimed at increasing the number of new visitors to the exhibition, and hence to persuade manufacturers to re-consider non-participation. As EuroGeo4 was to be the first international conference on geosynthetics held in the UK, it was decided to run a series of training courses in parallel with the conference technical programme. The training courses were designed for those engineers in the UK who required introductory and mid-level training on geosynthetic functions and applications. It was envisaged that the target audience for these courses were unlikely to attend EuroGeo4 as full delegates to the technical programme. A key aspect of each training course was access to the exhibition hall during specifically timetabled periods, enabling participants to meet and discuss geosynthetic materials and applications with the exhibitors. This significantly enhanced the training course ex-perience of the delegates and at the same time provided the exhibitors with access to new potential customers. The strategy was communicated to the Corporate Members as part of the publicity for EuroGeo4 and this helped sell out the exhibition hall weeks before the conference, leading to the need to provide additional space.
The training courses attracted in the order of 90 additional participants to EuroGeo4, and hence to the exhibition. The feedback was positive both from the delegates who found the opportunity to talk to the exhibitors a sig-nificant benefit, and the exhibitors who appreciated the exposure to new faces.
Neil Dixon, IGS Council Member and Chairman of IGS UK Chapter