Duncan Custerson talks to CN's Martin Fullard about Confex North, and how the North's events industry is in the ascendency
You must have heard by now that Confex North is taking place this summer. Specifically, 3-4 July at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. What, though, is this event all about, and how is it different to International Confex? To find out if it's worth all the hype, I spoke to Duncan Custerson, the event's sales director.
Who is Confex North for?
In the broadest possible terms, Confex North is a show aimed at UK-wide event professionals. The core visitors registered are senior planners from agencies, corporate brands and associations based in the North. Exhibitors range from innovative event suppliers, event technology organisations, and venues.
It ran last year as Future Focus, what did you learn from that show and how will this one be better?
Future Focus was a launch exhibition based on a perceived industry demand for more networking hubs outside of London. We wanted to have a bit of fun with this show and internally it became known as International Confex’s ‘naughty little brother’.
I think we succeeded in making some waves with the launch. That was the intention, now comes the development.
We established that the demand for a Confex in the North was real and were overwhelmed with the quality of visitors and packed theatres. So, while the content remains focused on innovation and the future, the fundamentals of the show are all about geography.
The North of is on the map for events and deserves its own dedicated show. This year we’re aiming to really home in on some of the personal connections by running hosted speed networking events throughout the show in partnership with Bluehat Teambuilding. We also have canal boats chauffeuring VIPs to and from Victoria Warehouse, as well as coach services to ensure easy access.
"It is not surprising as so many award-winning agencies and brands are based in and around the area."
Do you think the events industry in the North is often overlooked when compared to London?
Last year  I would have said yes without hesitation. However, I already sense much more interest in Northern event hubs and Manchester has not disappointed. It is not surprising as so many award-winning agencies and brands are based in and around the area.
Is it just for the northern events industry; why should people travel from London or Scotland?
Put simply: face-to-face networking. Exhibitions are not just transactional, the value of consistent personal development through education and inspiration from industry leaders is exponential. Pepper this with industry connections that could help to make your next event an industry talking point and I’d say that’s worth a day or two out of the office.
If you would travel to Manchester from your office for one or two arranged meetings, travelling to a warehouse full of solutions and potential business with contacts wanting to engage is worth its weight.
Confex North allows us to connect planners based in the North to have a networking and educational hub closer to home, but the content of the show is new and exhibitors are wide-ranging, so it is another event for the serious event planners’ diary.
What sort of content can we expect; what are the key issues eventprofs want to learn about?
To be honest, I would genuinely like to attend every single seminar but here are a few I actually might sneak into: ‘Achieving High Tech Impact on Low Budget’, ‘CN30 under Thirty: The Future of CSR’, ‘Live events – the advertising of today with Richard Waddington’, and of course the ‘Speakers Corner Showcase’, which are always very entertaining!
Also, there is a limited number of VIP gift boxes courtesy of Khyva, which are available to the first 40 VIPs invited to speed networking. They are worth £80 each, I want one!
Who is exhibiting?
Teambuilding, Gifting, Event Tech, Venues and Hotels… to name drop a few: Hire Intelligence, Venue View, Zest mixology, All Star lanes, Pontins Events, Manchester Art Gallery, The Principal Manchester, Merlin Events North West. You should visit the website.
Complete this sentence: you should come to Confex North because:
It’s another chance to increase your network, immerse yourself in the event planning community and discover new solutions. You will not be disappointed.
Which three words would you use to describe the show?
Professional. Networking. Fun.