Recruitment industry exhibitions – time for a change?

November 13, 2015

When I first started out in recruitment there were not many events that brought the industry together.  In recent years however there has been an explosion.  The latest is next week, with the final publication to have so far avoided them (Recruiter) joining the likes of Recruitment International, Global Recruiter and Onrec in running an event.

We now have a calendar rammed with events.  Not only are the aforementioned one’s going strong, but we also have the Recruitment Expo, Bullhorn live, the list goes on.

But I’m sensing that event fatigue is setting in.

I recently attended an event and it was like walking into a ghost town.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it.  I’ve been in the industry a long time and it gave me a chance to chat to people who I know, but there is relatively little value received if I don’t get to meet as many new people as I once did (And it’s not because I’ve met them all – they just are not there).

Perhaps the model is broken?

Guest speakers tend to be unsurprising.  Ann Swain and Kevin Green are interesting and have their place, but I’ve seen more of them this year than I have my Auntie and Uncle.

Then there are the exhibitors.  I could write a list now of who will be there: Bond, Bullhorn, Burning Glass, Broadbean,  Cube19, Daxtra, Indeed, Innovate CV, Recruitment in a box, RACS, TEAM, etc etc.  They must see value in being there, but they offer little new and I suspect the smaller companies who may benefit (and I include my business in this) are priced out of the market for events.  Now wouldn’t an event for the smaller, nimble suppliers be something?

The attendees on the whole are the regulars.  People like me who will turn up to have a nose about, see familiar people, have a chat, make some new connections, take my free jelly beans and go.

There are of course people who will attend for a specific talk.  The perennial employer branding, employment law, compliance etc talks.  Some of which are worthy and offer something new, others which are mere rehashes of previous sessions.  But you do get to identify these quickly and occasionally the odd gem can come in (And let’s be honest if there is a chance to see the likes of Google Dave, then that is always fun), it’s just often I want to see the morning session of day 1 and the afternoon of day 2; two days at the event is never going to happen.

I perhaps have done a little disservice to these events.  You do often see excited young shiny people who are clearly at their first event, unjaded by the similarity of the previous 8  events in the last 18 months, they walk around with the enthusiasm that makes me jealous and proudly displaying their name badge, happy that they have made it to the event (not realising that they will now be fielding calls from umbrella companies for the next 6 months).  And then you get the recruitment owners/directors who turn up for the first time, who arrive unsure of what to expect, and leave even more confused at the end as they assimilate the sales messages being given and recalling the fact that Adapt integrates with Bullhorn, Daxtra is a multi-poster and Cube19 parse CVs.  But at least it gives them the chance to look for the products they need in one place and gets them thinking about how they will grow their business.

But over this two years I have noticed attendance at these events dwindle.  People say to me more and more often “I’m giving this one a miss” or “I’ve heard x speak before.”  Not once have I heard them say “Are you mad, of course I’m going – X are going to have a basketball hoop at their stand and I could win a bottle of Blue Nun.”

Undoubtedly events have their place and I would miss them if they went (and in truth I have got some value from them).  I just wonder though whether we have now reached saturation point and if the events will start become more irregular or fewer again, or if they will innovate.

Leaving the office to go to an event, especially when people are so busy, is a big decision.  If they are returning with nothing more than a crappy cotton bag and pen, people are going to start questioning whether they should go at all.

For my part, I still enjoy the social side of recruitment.  I enjoy seeing the regular faces who I have never spoken to but nod every year at and meeting up with clients, contacts and suppliers.  I just feel that we need to inject something different into the model, or maybe I just need to take a year out……