April 14, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

In part two of our interview with National Media CEO Brad Langton we hear about how the industry should promote itself – Langton wants to see the education system include our medium as part of the study of marketing.

If you missed part one of this story yesterday, read it here.

Will the B2B or B2C models change as a result of COVID impacts on consumer and corporate behaviour?

COVID has changed many things for the short-term and only a handful for the long-term.

It’s easy to get lost in media reports and data while we’re living in the micro moment. Travel, spending, house prices, online spending behaviours, business travel – all topical and exacerbated at the moment. I believe “we” – and by “we” I’m referring to Australians more specifically – are creatures of learned habit.

They once said nobody would dare put their credit card details on the Internet to buy things online. Now we hear that nobody will shop in-person in retail as a result of COVID, while at the same time having companies like Amazon opening retail outlets [and] Nike cutting 40 per cent of its wholesale distribution while launching retail and Jordan branded stores.

Undoubtedly business travel will not jump to 2019 levels, but when corporate policies relax to what they once were, will there be two years of meetings to catch up on?

Will Zoom replace all of that, or will we travel smarter? COVID definitely has helped businesses identify unnecessary and wasted costs. But I think there’s likely a more defined business case or ROI- based approach to these things at a macro level.

What about the exhibition channel – how could the industry better promote itself?

As a platform, exhibitions are the most powerful way for companies to connect with past, current and future customers. But our industry knowing this, and trying to ‘push’ the story isn’t going to help the industry grow.

We need to think about the ‘pull’. We have a generation of sharp young marketers who are empowered with helping their companies attract and retain business, and tradeshows/exhibitions are simply not even in the consideration mix. Digital marketing – yes. Magazines – yes. Tradeshows – ‘my dad used to go to those’.

How do we get our medium incorporated into higher education curriculum with the value and attention it deserves? How can organisers be a part of this re-education process?

I don’t have all the answers, but I am passionate about playing a role in instigating this change.

What would you say to people thinking about careers in our industry?

People often look at this industry and say, ‘oh you’re in events’. Funnily, we’re not. We’re not running three weddings a weekend with a customer we’ll never see again.

Rather we’re sitting at the table with government, working with leading associations and listening to the biggest companies in [their] respective sectors to give them an annual meeting place for innovation, inspiration and connection.
I know that’s a long-winded start to my answer, but that very distinction highlights what’s so exciting about the exhibition industry. We bring entire industries together in the biggest possible way. The biggest brands, the most recognised speakers, the coolest new technologies, all under one roof.

Old friends and new, laughs, drinks, all while serious business gets done. Working on the planning of that is fun, but the reward of delivering and witnessing success happening as a result of your actions is just so hard to put into words.

What do you love most about being in the industry?

We really make a measurable difference for all of our stakeholders. I speak particularly from the angle of bringing new trade shows to market.  For example – watching a hotelier walk into an exhibition hall for the first time, seeing the shock on their face with all the products and solutions to help them do their job better. Then watching them get stuck into it – it still excites me.

Hearing exhibitors tell me their stories of life-changing deals done on the first day of a show, or witnessing two exhibiting brands form a new collaboration partnership all happens under our watch.

I’ve also been fortunate to watch brands ‘try a show’ with us as they launch a new product, to then see their companies acquired by Coca-Cola a few years later. We helped them accelerate market scale and that’s something to be proud of.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an Ironman – surf lifesaving. I spent my childhood years training in the pool and the ocean 12 times a week alongside my sporting idols.

Up at 4am for swimming, straight from school to the beach for board training. It was fun and social and much of that discipline has shaped my approach to many parts of my work and personal life still today.

Safe to say I didn’t make it on a career level, but full-circle now and [I] am back involved with my sons doing Nippers on weekends and wondering what could have been!

Who do you look up to in business – who inspires you?

I’m fortunate to have tripped into this industry after a chance coffee catch-up with Mark Harvey in 2012 – so must start with him. His approach to most things is honest and direct and his entrepreneurial mindset the very reason I’m all-in in the exhibition industry, more passionate than ever about building new, industry-defining trade shows from nothing.

Outside of this industry, I’m inspired by Jeff Bezos for continually looking inside his cost centres to better understand how he can continually refine his operating model. His quote ‘your margin is my opportunity’ exemplifies this all-angles mindset.

If I can also be cheeky – I’ll add Elon Musk. Eccentric yes, but his ability to think outside the box, challenge the status quo, and put it all on the line over and over is something I admire immensely. He doesn’t believe in ‘not possible’.

In a world riddled with so much negativity there’s something motivating about people who challenge boundaries and achieve the unachievable or at least strive for it.