Opening doors to trade, removing barriers

14 Nov 2019

Leading exhibition events organizer committed to serving as platform for domestic firms eyeing global expansion


One small moment was all it took to inspire a company’s vision.

More than a decade ago, Chet Burchett, Chief Executive Officer of Reed Exhibitions and newcomer to the business, witnessed a woman winning an award for “Best Show Product”.

While accepting the award, the woman broke down and cried. Burchett was puzzled by such an outburst of emotion. He later learned that this female entrepreneur had taken a year out and had practically risked everything to create and finance her product. Winning the award was not only recognition of many months of hard work, it was also the source of a new business and a dream come true.

“It truly touched my heart,” Burchett said. “And it was at that very moment that I realized our business is so much more than putting on shows. It’s about finding solutions to great challenges and helping others to achieve their dreams.”

“That moment, followed by many others, has inspired me to help individual business people achieve their goals, while opening doors to trade, lifting up economies and removing barriers along the way,” says Burchett, who joined the company in 2004.

Burchett stepped into the global CEO role in 2015 after serving as President of the Americas for Reed Exhibitions nearly 11 years. He oversaw the company’s expansion to Brazil and Mexico, the launch of Reed’s Pop Culture Group, implementation of a dynamic, value-led pricing model, and creation of a cross-border collaboration program.

Burchett considers China a vital market for Reed’s global business with its rising domestic show numbers and increasing visitor presence at overseas exhibitions.

During his recent visit to Shanghai, China Daily had an interview with Burchett, who discussed how Reed serves as a platform for Chinese businesses keen to expand into global markets, and how the company’s ongoing digital innovations provide a better and in-depth understanding of their customers and a personalized show experience.

1.How would you assess China’s role in Reed’s global business strategy and layout?

China’s role is vital. Over just a few decades, it has grown into one of our largest business sectors, while securing its position on the global stage. China is currently the largest market in the Asia-Pacific region. In terms of revenue by region, Europe accounts for 44 percent of the global market, with the US generating 18 percent and the rest of the world 38 percent.

2. What are your thoughts on China’s economy and its prospects?

China’s economy is still one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world. The exhibition industry has long served as an engine for business development and growth both domestically and internationally. It's important to remember that even in the midst of the most challenging times, exhibitions can open doors to new markets and provide businesses opportunities to grow.

3. How do you see Reed’s development and prospects in China’s exhibition industry?

Last year we saw strong growth with a total of 65 successful events, and we formed a joint venture with Shanghai Forever Exhibition, expanding our profile into automotive manufacturing. Our joined forces will be launching AMTS Brazil next year.

We also took 170 Chinese companies and exhibitors to this year’s CMEF Indonesia, an exhibition that serves the medical equipment and manufacturing sectors, with an aim to help further build their business and to broaden their exposure in the global market.

We’ve continued to experience solid growth throughout 2019. This year, we launched six new events spanning multiple sectors from automotive manufacturing and materials, electronics manufacturing and assembly to flowers and gardening, gifts and homeware and food and hospitality.

4. How is Reed supporting Chinese companies looking to expand overseas?

Our Reed International Sales Group focuses exclusively on export sales. Last year, this passionate team has helped nearly 11,500 Chinese exhibitors attend Reed exhibitions around the globe. This year, we have already exceeded that number. This represents about 15 percent of our business in China. It’s exciting to see our customers moving to new markets. And we are here to support that growth.

Reed serves more than 40 industry segments globally, which provide tremendous opportunities for Chinese companies looking to expand abroad. Our job is to help customers be successful as they navigate the international arena.

5. What is the current state of Reed’s domestic presence in China?

Domestically, we’re approaching the two-million mark in both exhibitors and buyers. And those numbers continue to experience healthy growth. We recognize that each of China’s markets and regions is unique. An important part of our vision includes seeing each individual customer with the utmost clarity. By better understanding our customers, we can actively engage them to produce the positive results they need to succeed.

6. How does Reed’s current operating model differ from more traditional exhibitions?

Our model is very simple: help our customers achieve their business goals. To that end, our work increasingly centers around getting to know our individual customers, together with their markets and needs, resulting in a personalized (and maximized) event experience.

And I’m proud to say that we now serve over seven million customers worldwide. Recent years have brought a keen focus on innovation. We’ll be rolling out a new digital platform, exclusive to China, later this year. And next year, we’ll be introducing our new and increasingly personalized, marketing automation platform to the world.

One of our most successful initiatives, our business matchmaking program, launched in 2015 and is now available at all of our China-based shows. Its exclusive and intense focus on improving the buyer-visiting experience, via tailored recommendations, products and services, has delivered big results and high levels of satisfaction. The program served 1.9 million customers last year with an anticipated jump to 2.5 million by the end of 2019. Over 60 percent of our buyers have reported positive interactions leading to better overall business results. In addition, our show service app, Reed Connect, which provides smart exhibition experience for the Chinese consumer, continues to grow with 140,000 match recommendations to date.

7. What are Reed’s core strengths that have helped it to develop customized visitor experiences?

Our company strengths stem from within. Reed is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools, which employs thousands of data scientists and technologists, and whose expertise we regularly utilize. We also conduct extensive research before launching any new project or event.

These combined resources not only give us a deeper understanding of our customers’ markets and needs, they allow us to provide the value-added products and services that gain their attention and lead them on the road to success.

8. In your view, what is the impact of AI technology on conventional exhibition business?

Change is often viewed as threatening. Years back, when the internet started entering the mainstream, people were worried. But it actually ended up working in their favor. Nowadays, it would be impossible to imagine any business, not just exhibitions, succeed without the internet and its relevant technology.

AI is simply another new level, a next step. For example, virtual reality technology allows onsite buyers to experience products in truly remarkable ways. Technology is here to stay and people would be wise to harness its benefits.

All that aside though, it is exciting to envision AI’s future role in the industry, one fact remains: it will never replace human emotion and interaction. Nearly 75 percent of all of our customers, exhibiting or attending, are small and medium-sized enterprises. We’ve learned that they not only come to our events to increase their industry knowledge and contacts, their number-one reason is to be inspired and discover what the industry has to offer.

Inspiration is a human emotion. Though AI has and will surely continue to influence and enhance the exhibition experience, it cannot and will never replace the human spirit.

Name: Chet Burchett
Nationality: US

2015-Present: Global President & Chief Executive Officer, Reed Exhibitions
2004-2014: President of the Americas, Reed Exhibitions
1998-2004: President and Chief Executive Officer, USA, Burson-Marsteller
1989-1998: Executive Vice President & General Manager, Edleman Public Relations
1986-1989: Assistant City Editor at the Houston Post
1983-1986: Assistant Editor at Amarillo Globe News
1979-1983: Reporter and Assistant City Editor at Waco Tribune Herald

Bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from Baylor University

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