Big is not necessarily better

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

I found out that big is not necessarily better when I visited the second edition of SME in East Malling earlier this week.

In this instance, SME doesn't apply to small and medium-sized enterprises - it stands for Southern Municipal Exhibition and is a regional show that takes place in Kent. Essentially, the event does what it says on the tin. It takes place in the South and it covers the municipal sector.

It is a low cost event that gives exhibitors the chance to show off their wares; be they sweepers or skip lorries and even offers a CIWM approved seminar programme.

When you drive in, you would be forgiven for thinking you were entering a garden centre. The Orchards Events Venue (10 minutes from the M20) takes you past fields of flowering pear and apply trees – the complete antithesis to bigger trade shows which take place in large inner city exhibition complexes (with all the accompanying annoying hassle of gaining access and expense of parking) while SME exhibitors have the advantage of uncongested traffic and, once installed, look out over the rolling, verdant Kent countryside.

Along with a terrific venue, the show organisers, VWS and EPIC Media Group, have come up with another great wheeze. Entry is free and included in visitors' free tickets are free tea and coffee along with a hot dog or beef burger for lunch that is cooked before your eyes on a stand in the middle of the outside exhibition area. What better way of networking and enjoying yourself than munching a (free) freshly cooked beef burger/hot dog in the sunshine and chatting to colleagues?

And who exhibits at the event? Companies that no one has ever heard of?

Nothing of the sort - exhibitors include 'names' like Faun-Zoeller, Biffa Municipal and Mercedes-Benz. Visitors to SME also provide genuine enquiries. According to one exhibitor, "they are not tyre-kickers either".

So there you have it. A glorious landscape, inexpensive location and an environment that is highly conducive to talking business. The added bonus to yesterday's event was unbroken and glorious sunshine.

According to the event organisers, the formula is going to be repeated in the Midlands and in the North of England.

Judging by the steady (if modest) stream of visitors at SME, there is clearly a market for smaller, low cost shows like this in the recycling and waste management sectors. Long may they prosper.

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