We spoke with the fantastic Carlene de Bourge-Bender, talking all about the Ealing Business expo. Finding out about how the Ealing Business Expo all started, the difficulties Covid created and what the future holds for Carlene.
How did the Ealing Business Expo start and when?
Most of my life I’ve been involved in creating magazines and newspapers, and in 2012 I had begun making a little magazine to show off and promote businesses where I live in Ealing, West London. However, I just couldn’t get enough people interested in local advertising to make the magazine profitable, so in 2015 when Ealing Council approached me about putting on a business show for the borough, I thought it was a good way to use and bring all those business contacts together, and promote them through face-to-face networking events instead. In 2017 the Council stepped back from the event, and the Ealing Business Expo became the main focus of my business, Contactus Ltd.
What has been your biggest challenge during covid?
We’ve already had to postpone the event twice, and it’s been costly and time-consuming to update and re-produce all our marketing materials, such as flyers, cards, website, banners, posters, etc. When we first decided to re-schedule the Expo, we were only two weeks away from event day in March, and had been promoting the event for six months already. So now that we’re looking at an October date, that’s another seven months added on. I worry that a bit of Expo 2020 fatigue may be setting in among my audience, so the challenge is to try and freshen things up a bit. Switching to a hybrid event, with the first day (Monday 19 October) in person, and the second day (Tuesday 20 October) taking place fully online, makes it a new kind of experience for attendees, and hopefully will be something to encourage them to stay interested and get involved!
What does the near future hold for the Ealing Business Expo?
The first thing we have to do is make a success of the next Expo on 19-20 October 2020. As we are all still so new to this era of covid-aware events, there will be some amount of trial-and-error to see what works or not, and how people respond. It’s an exciting time for innovation, that’s for sure. In 2021, we’re hoping to increase to two events in the year, to reach out to different audiences.
Have you attended many online business expos? If so, how have you found adapting to them?
I’ve signed up to a few of them, in order to see what they got right, and also what they didn’t get so right. From the perspective of an event organiser, I’ve been shocked at the cost of using these virtual event platforms – they are priced way beyond the budget of the average small to medium event. So this means that most of us will have to find ways to kind of ‘DIY’ our own event platforms, or maybe we will sadly be forced to increase ticket prices and exhibitor fees. In the early days of lockdown, like most people I struggled to manage the various different meeting software, and wondered why everyone didn’t just stick to Zoom or Teams. The Scooploop and EEC Collective ‘Unlock 2020’ conference back in July was one place that provided the opportunity to try out new networking styles as an attendee, and I’m still very grateful for that.