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24 months of Swissbau: a look behind the scenes

Published on 8/3/2016 by Christoph Spangenberg

Swissbau is held every two years and is the most important industry meeting point for the construction sector in Switzerland. For the team, the five days of the trade fair constitute five truly exceptional days. But what actually happens in the 23 months between two editions of the trade fair? We take a look behind the scenes.  

Das Team der Swissbau (MCH Group)

It's all over! The hours and days immediately following the trade fair

As soon as the hall doors have closed, the next task is to complete dismantling without a hitch. A few days later, the hall is handed back, which is a bit like handing over an apartment to new tenants. Muriel Mangold, head of communications at Swissbau, reports from experience that "everything has to be checked to make sure it's clean, that all refuse has been cleared away and that no damage has been done to the hall". This is followed by debriefings and final settlements. When the books are closed with the MCH Group's financial department, it also becomes clear whether the trade fair has met its quantitative targets or not.

Up to 6 months afterwards: evaluation

Were the customers happy with their trade-fair presence? Will they be attending the next Swissbau? The trade fair team collects the views of exhibitors and partners, including the media, associations and sponsors. The exhibitor and visitor surveys are evaluated.

18 months before the fair: the business plan must be up and running

The insights and data acquired are analysed for the business plan. Muriel Mangold explains that "our cockpit for this strategy process is the 5C model. It enables us to use the parameters of Commerce, Content, Community, Context and Communication to establish where strategic, conceptual or process-oriented adaptations are necessary and also the points at which we are still in a favourable starting position for the next edition of the fair."

In parallel with this, the team conducts its internal exchanges in workshops, meetings and bilateral discussions. Muriel Mangold's comment on that phase is that "it is highly creative. Much is developed and defined at that stage, but sometimes, however, ideas are also thrown out again."

With the consolidated business plan, the team goes on to define its strategic thrusts, the quantitative and qualitative targets and also individual measures – and once again it works in a structured way, applying the 5Cs.

14 months still to go: time to get exhibitors, partners and sponsors enthusiastic

The time has now come for detailed concepts, project management and acquisition. As early on as possible, the team sets out to ensure that the major exhibitors and also the partners and sponsors are ready to support the fair. At the same time, a critical review is conducted of the communication strategy. What has got to be changed? Is a new strategy needed or concepts for new communication channels? "Over the past four years, in particular," Mangold adds, "we have ventured into new digital terrain, in particular, and invested a great deal here", notably in the Swissbau blog, event reports, newsletter marketing, the Swissbau app, livestreams, search-engine advertising and the intensive use of social media.

This is the point in time at which the targets and measures defined by applying the 5C model are put into practice. As far as the exhibition is concerned, what matters is to have as representative an offer as possible in the various sectors at the fair. In the content field, it is primarily a matter of the content for Swissbau Focus, the event and networking format. This is compiled in close cooperation with customers and partners.

The preparations always involve intensive consultation with exhibitors, associations, institutions, experts and the media. "That is important," Mangold explains, "for keeping a finger on the pulse of what is happening, for detecting trends and for making them visible and tangible in the context of the fair".

12 months still to go: acquisition and communication

A year before the fair, the pace speeds up: budgeting the fair, creating and distributing the exhibitor documents, acquiring additional exhibitors, partners, sponsors and media and updating the website. Communication via the digital channels commences.

9 months still to go: stand positioning starts

The earlier exhibitors register, the more likely they are to be allotted their preferred positions in the hall.

Swissbau, Messe Basel (MCH Group)

6 months still to go: start of the visitor campaign and media work

High time to get potential visitors looking forward to the forthcoming trade fair. What are the highlights and contents? Which exhibitors are going to be there? The visitor campaign and media work are launched: this involves advertisements in specialist media, special supplements in mass-circulation newspapers, dispatch of the Swissbau Magazine, radio sponsoring, posters, social media, search-engine advertising, newsletters and more.

The time is now also ripe for planning the logistic process, organising security and hostesses and verifying some of the stand concepts and issuing approvals to the exhibitors.

1 month still to go: the logistic challenge

It's time to start the assembly work. With more than a thousand exhibitors, that has to be done in instalments. The big companies begin as early as mid-December. Each exhibition stand comprises many tons of material: walls and ceilings, floors and lighting, beams and furnishings. And, quite naturally, the products too: façade elements, windows, doors and materials such as steel, concrete and timber. There are also items of equipment to be displayed as well as installations depicting technical building systems, not to mention complete kitchens and bathrooms.

1 week still to go: the intensive phase starts

The product managers are now spending nearly all their time going around the halls. Is everything going according to plan? Anyone in need of any help?  

1 day still to go: "let the show begin"

More than 18 months of preparation and several weeks of construction have come to an end, and Swissbau will be opening in a matter of hours. It is a tradition for the team to get together for dinner on the evening before the trade fair and then to go for a walk through the halls. "Although the tension is already running very high by then, it's a moment we savour, and we really enjoy the exhibitors' superb stands and displays", explains the head of communication. Then, during the night before opening, the carpets are laid in the halls. The show can now begin.

Bundesrat Ueli Maurer an der Swissbau 2016 (MCH Group)

Start of the trade fair: 5 exceptional days

Media briefings and conducted tours, organised events and interviews – the team has to hurry from one appointment to the next. The trade-fair, sales and product managers spend most of their time on the move, calling on customers. In that way, they obtain direct feedback on how the trade fair is going and where additional support is needed. The communication team processes media enquiries and looks after the media partners and sponsors. Two camera teams, three photographers and three journalists are at work on behalf of Swissbau. That makes it possible to publish interesting contents and impressions from the fair and its organised events in the livestream, blog posts, event reports, newsletters and social-media postings. Every morning, before the doors are opened, the team meets for a stocktaking.

Swissbau, Messe Basel (MCH Group)

Last day of the trade fair: a hint of melancholy

Only a few hours left, and it will soon all be history again. Time to pay a final call on customers, to have one last look at one or two highlights and to wait for the announcement of the visitor figures. That same evening, the final report is sent to exhibitors, the media and visitors in the form of a newsletter. The time has come to start dismantling everything."We then drink to one another's health, swap anecdotes and enjoy looking back over five wonderful, unforgettable trade-fair days", explains Muriel Mangold. It won't be long until the evaluation of the trade fair that has just drawn to its close leads smoothly into the preparations for the next one.

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Christoph Spangenberg

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