Nicola Lazenby: ‘My favourite memories include shooting zombies on the SEGA stand – what a great way to decompress after a day onsite!’
Nicola Lazenby is no stranger to the amusements industry having worked on ATEI between 2004 and 2007. In her first interview the new Director of EAG reflects on her associations with the amusements sector and looks ahead to the plans to develop the show into a meeting place for the European industry
You are no stranger to the amusements industry – can you outline your association with the business, what period did it cover and what are your memories/recollections?
I actually started work at ATE in May 2004 as a temp and progressed to a permanent role in a marketing capacity.
When you work on an exhibition, you never truly feel like you know your show until you get onsite and I was adamant that I would be at the 2005 show albeit heavily pregnant, but it was not to be. My son was born on Tuesday 25th January 2005 at just gone 7.30am…it wasn’t a straight forward experience to say the least, but once he was here and all ok, I remember turning to my mum and commenting that the show doors would be opening in a couple of hours. She looked at me incredulously and I don’t blame her, but it’s the nature of exhibitions, and the event. ATEI as it was then, was firmly woven into one of, if not the most significant events of my life – and continued to do so as I missed his first and second birthdays! I have great memories returning to work and joining in the efforts towards the 2006 and 2007 events, and there’s no doubt that the colour, sound and charged atmosphere is something I won’t ever forget. Some of my favourite memories include shooting zombies on the SEGA stand – what a great way to decompress after a day onsite!
In addition to the theatre and excitement of working in the amusements sector another of my stand-out memories is the sense of community and solidarity associated with a business that’s truly intergenerational. The family identity is something quite unique to this industry and to the show that represents it.
I played a small part in its history, and by returning I’m hoping to play a bigger part in its future. I’m delighted to be back!
As an events industry professional how many years of experience do you have, what shows have you worked on and what was your last position?
I started out at IIR Exhibitions, working on the print portfolio of exhibitions including IPEX 1998, which was a gargantuan exhibition, boasting around 2,500 exhibitors and just under 100,000 visitors.
That experience was, without doubt, what gave me the exhibition bug. Following that I worked at organisers covering a range of industry sectors including construction and site equipment, glass and glazing, optical, science, agriculture, social work and hairdressing and have been involved in four exhibition launches.
Although the sectors are very different something that’s worked on Salon International for example can be usefully deployed and adapted in Construction or for that matter Amusements. I’m not suggesting that we’re going to see live catwalks at EAG but there’s a lot to be said for thinking creatively and borrowing ideas from other successful events. Before moving to EAG my last position was Head of Marketing, Operations and Product at Community Care where I was responsible for career, recruitment, retention and digital training products, webinars and events.
How much has the business world missed in-person or live events?
Like so many others in the events space, I had to work at great speed to pivot from live events to virtual ones, with varying degrees of success, and much learning along the way. The biggest lesson for me was that information is conveyed through so much more than words, and ultimately people want to get up close and personal with a brand, its products and services, before they even think about signing on the dotted line. We glean so much from each other through all our senses, and that’s just something virtual events will never be able to replicate. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for them in the marketing mix but I don’t believe anything will ever be as valuable to people when doing business as looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand to seal the deal; feeling like you can trust someone or that you share their values and want to do business with them. We can already see that exhibitions are bouncing back – proof positive that they have been missed by many. Particularly in sectors that are people-centric, live events count for so much in terms of buying and selling but also in relation to talking about the business, sharing concerns and working towards solutions. I also think that having bacta as owners of EAG provides a really valuable opportunity to debate the future direction of the business.
How do you want to see EAG develop over the short, mid and longer-term?
In the initial stage my objective is to consolidate and ensure that EAG meets the needs of the industry – both exhibitors and visitors. From that solid foundation and in partnership with our customers we will be looking to broaden the EAG footprint in a way that reflects the changing face of pay to play entertainment. It’s a slightly over-used phrase but the aim is to make EAG a one-stop shop for the amusements, leisure and hospitality sectors. I believe there’s an opportunity to engage with the European industry and make EAG into more of an international hub. EAG has to be a shop-window for the industry, a place for networking, a coming together of industry thought leaders and an opportunity to influence and lobby politicians and policy-makers.
What can the industry expect to experience in January?
2023 is a transition year for EAG. We want to make it as seamless and painless as possible for all involved, but we are already working on the introduction of new show features and an up to the minute content programme. Watch this space!
How much of a game changer is the opening of the Elizabeth Line – what will it mean to visitors/exhibitors and what will it mean to EAG?
The Elizabeth Line is transformational for all of London, but in terms of ExCeL, with Heathrow (direct train) and Gatwick both around 45 minutes, and Stansted under an hour, it will really help re-establish EAG as an international exhibition. For such a sociable, fun-loving industry, it also opens up the capital for everyone involved in the event, making so many more bars, restaurants and hotels far more accessible and giving everyone much more choice and freedom while they are at the event. Add the rest of the transport infrastructure improvements that have taken place and you can see why ExCeL can lay claim to being the world’s most connected event venue courtesy of two underground lines, a mainline station, an airport, road links, bus services, water taxis and even a cable car!
What message(s) do you have for those contemplating visiting EAG in January 2023?
People attend exhibitions for a variety of reasons all of which will be delivered by and available at EAG in January. At the most simplistic level exhibitions are about bringing leading exhibitors together with an audience of buyers in a professional environment where they can do business. The EAG experience will also include a content programme of practical business insight, access to senior industry decision makers as well as the opportunity to network and socialise with industry colleagues and contemporaries. The show floor is really starting to take shape and I’m confident that visitors will have access to the very best innovators active in the amusements and low-stake gaming entertainment space. Being a part of EAG, sharing ideas with the industry, seeing and playing the latest products and speaking with the people responsible for creating them has never been easier. We will be working hard to replicate the energy which drives the industry on the EAG show floor and to deliver an edition of the UK’s most important amusements and low stake gaming show that’s not to be missed. Register and keep up to date with all of the show developments via www.eagexpo.com