Barrett lights up Broadway

If you have ever been to Childcare Expo in Coventry, London or Manchester over the past seven years, chances are you have met one of the team from show organiser Broadway Events. The success of the concept, that is now gearing up for its 15th show, is due in no small part to the company’s commitment to and enthusiasm for the early years, Kathy Hammond finds out more from managing director Emma Barrett

How did Broadway Events get started in the early-years sector?

I set up Broadway Events in 2009 with the plan of running show operations for other event organisers. But because I had been working with Ocean Events on the Nursery Show in Bournemouth, some of the exhibitors from that show and others in the early-years sector asked me to do a show in the Midlands because there wasn’t anything in the area for the sector then. And so we opened the doors to the first Childcare Expo in September 2010 in Coventry.

What did you learn from that first event?

A lot! Although I had always worked in events since I finished college [in 2003] it was my first year working by myself. It was my own company so there was financial pressure and I needed to spend a lot on marketing to make sure it was a success.

One of the hardest things is making the sales calls because you get a lot of people saying “No” before someone says “Yes”. When you get that sale it gives you a buzz and it really helps you build more relationships; I had 90 exhibitors at the first event.

Because of my experience with other events I had organised for other business sectors, we held the first Childcare Expo on a Tuesday and Wednesday, but that was a big mistake for the early-years sector! After that first year we moved to a Friday and Saturday and haven’t looked back.

I also learnt that you can’t control everything; there were two crashes on the M6 on one of the days which affected the number of visitors getting to the show so the final numbers were not as good as we had expected and as I had told exhibitors.

And I learnt that you have to provide really good content in the seminar programme and can’t have speakers just marketing themselves or their products. This is why we are so strict with our seminar programme to make sure that Childcare Expo is an event where people can come to learn something new that will benefit their practice.

How has the company developed since then?

For us at Broadway Events, it is all about giving people good experiences and building up really effective commercial relationships with all our exhibitors as well as strong partnerships, for example the one we established with Twinkl for the Inspiration Zone and two days of craft workshops at Coventry and Manchester and now they will be coming to the London show in March.

In terms of the company itself I didn’t take on another full-time member of staff until Andrea [Howell} started in 2012. Before that I had an intern in the second year of the business then another placement student. Now there are eight of us in the team and Andrea has a new full-time role in charge of projects and personnel.

Broadway Events seems extremely knowledgeable about early-years. How do you achieve this considering you are not practitioners yourselves?

Ever since I first started working in events I realised how much I enjoyed building a working relationship with our exhibitors, working with operations team on the day and helping visitors. I just love the buzz of bringing people together.

To do this effectively, you really do have to know a lot about all the different sub-sectors within the early-years sector.

We carry out a lot of research to find just the right people to exhibit and make sure Childcare Expo is right for them. It is the same with visitors and with speakers; my worst fear is that an event does not go well for everyone.

At Broadway Events we have found that it is important not to make things too complicated: visitors need to understand what they can get out of an event and exhibitors need to know who will be there.

We research as much as we can from the early-years sector and particularly the visitors to Childcare Expo. We really try and speak to as many of them as possible and find out what is affecting them directly, what problems or concerns they have, what are the issues or the celebrations.

How important a part of the offer are the seminar content and networking opportunities at Childcare Expo?

We are adding more seminars and now have two seminar streams across two days at the events. We work hard to get high-end speakers and the seminars get booked up very quickly well in advance. This just shows how much in demand continuing professional development and education are to our audience.

We see that people use Childcare Expo to meet up too, particularly childminders as it can get quite lonely for these practitioners and nannies and we now have brand ambassadors.

Tell us more about the role of your Childcare Expo brand ambassadors.

We have lots of different people acting as ambassadors for us and carrying out different roles; we give them a voice and in exchange they talk to people in the sector about Expo and what it can do for them. For example, childminder and well-known blogger Sarah Neville writes for our website, providing valuable information for practitioners. So we are promoting her ideas that are helping people while she spreads the word about us. Word of mouth will always be the best form of marketing.

Does the company organise events for any other sectors?

When I was with my previous employer, we launched the Care Show in 2004. When some of the exhibitors from that sector realised I had set up Broadway Events, they approached me to run small, regional pop-up events for the care sector starting in 2011. Now we have five of these one-day Care Roadshows a year in Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, London and Birmingham with seminars, workshops and exhibitors.

And what about further evolution and development?

I was selected for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme and learnt so much! It’s like a mini-MBA over four months with online and in-person learning. And in 2015 I joined the Association of Event Organisers and am now on the board. Through this organisation I can give our exhibitors access to business masterclasses run by the association that can really help them.

All in all, what I want is for my exhibitors to do well on their stand and to keep coming back!

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