For the past three years Newtech has been quietly building up a loyal – and ever larger – audience for its alternative take on the traditional tradeshow. Martin Morrissey reveals to Images why his collaborative roadshows are proving such a success

Big trade shows are where the industry gathers to discuss trends and see the latest machinery and garments. But they’re not the only place that companies and buyers are getting together: embroiderers and garment decorators are also meeting exhibitors at Newtech, a series of roadshows organised by Coactive Events that are held around the country.

Martin Morrissey is the managing director of Marketing Alchemy, the company behind Coactive Events. He came up with the co-op roadshow concept while trying to find ways to promote a client’s products during a particularly tough economic period. He realised that by collaborating with other companies in the same space he would be able to share both marketing lists and costs, allowing him to present his client’s products to a greater number of potential clients than if he stuck to working alone… providing that none of the collaborators were direct competitors.

A relaxed atmosphere

The Newtech events follow this collaborative concept by selecting exhibitors that are not in competition with each other. “That is the one key point that everyone has to understand,” says Martin. “There is no competition in the hall, so the exhibitors are relaxed – it changes the whole atmosphere of the event.”

Pete Buffham of Wicked Printing Stuff agrees: “Because we’re not competing with each other, we can work together and have good conversations. It’s very social and makes for a better experience.”
The roadshows are held at various locations across the country, allowing companies to meet people who are not always able to get to all the bigger shows. “We have customers all over the UK and trying to get them all in one place, somewhere like Birmingham or London, is very, very difficult,” says Pete. “So the opportunity to actually go out around the UK and meet people opens up a new set of opportunities for us.”

Companies that have exhibited include TheMagicTouch, Ralawise, Stocks Sewing & Embroidery, DecoNetwork and Wicked Printing Stuff, and visitor numbers are planned so that each visitor gets 20-30 minutes to spend with each exhibitor. “The number of exhibitors directly affects the number of visitors we allow in,” explains Martin. “We make sure that visitors are not just hoovering up business cards, but that they’re coming in and having time to sit down and develop their thinking, to explore different options and to describe their business objectives to the exhibitors, and the exhibitors have an opportunity to educate visitors with what the options are from their perspective.”

The ability to have in-depth conversations was appreciated by Rose Ward of Your Shirts: “The guy on the stand was really helpful, gave us lots of information and spent a good half hour talking to us. We didn’t feel like we were in any kind of rush.”

Local events

Martin is quick to point out that these roadshows are not designed to replace trade shows: “We see this as an adjunct, a follow-on from the larger shows. We find that the two co-exist well together. What we are offering visitors is the chance to relax and have the time to think about new products and new options – and to do this locally. They can pop out from the office for a short time, see some interesting products, get some ideas buzzing around their heads then go back to the office and do some work.”

Each Newtech roadshow currently takes place over two days, but with a waiting list of exhibitors, Martin is looking at options to extend and expand the events. They are free for visitors to attend, and each roadshow includes free parking, free food and drinks, and special offers and promotions from the exhibitors.

The next Newtech show will be in Liverpool on May 6/7, followed by roadshows in Durham (June 9/10), Bristol (July 14/15), Wetherby (October 6/7) and London (November 24/25). For more information on the 2015 Newtech Wide Format, Screen, Digital & Display Series or the new events for 2016, visit the co-opevents.com website.