London Book Fair: reaching out to new audiences with flexible events programme

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The London Book Fair has gone digital. The online event will be held from June 21- July 1, 2021. Here, Andy Ventris, Director, London Book Fair, briefs us about the fair in the new format.

AABPBrief us about the forthcoming digital London Book Fair?

Andy: The Online Book Fair by LBF will offer the opportunity to make new connections and reach new audiences, giving companies, brands and individuals the chance to shape the future of the publishing industry through shared insight, and bringing the book community together to celebrate the resilience that the industry has shown during the ongoing pandemic. We haven’t tried to replicate the London Book Fair in-person event. Instead, we have taken some of its key component parts and delivered them in the most suitable way for a digital event. There will be something for everyone and we’re excited about being able to reach new audiences with a varied and flexible events programme that they will be able to enjoy at their own pace, over a two-week period rather than the traditional one week of the physical Fair.

AABP: What have been the major changes at London Book Fair?

Andy: Fundamentally, the Fair will still offer the same opportunities for the international publishing industry to connect and do business in a way that cannot be achieved outside of a trade fair. Moreover, we are constantly speaking with our exhibitors, partners and Advisory Board to understand how we can best deliver fairs of the future that make sense for our diverse and vast audience.

AABP: Share with us any interesting events/trends that you expect to see during the event.

Andy: We’ve seen a big demand for our exhibitors to be part of the insight sessions that are taking place – companies want to use this opportunity to get in front of a global audience and discuss their plans for the future.

AABP: What about the Market Focus country this year?

Andy: As there is no in-person LBF this year, the Market Focus for 2021 has been moved to 2022, with Sharjah being the Market Focus country for 2022. We are looking forward to delivering the programme with them next year.

AABP: Also share about the highlights of the conferences to be held during the year?

Andy: There are over 70 conferences, split into 13 streams – covering everything from the High Street to Licensing; Illustration to Translation and everything in between. We wanted to make this an event for the full publishing industry, and to reduce screen fatigue, we will be spreading content across two weeks so audiences can pick the most relevant times and content streams for them.

AABP: What has been the response from the exhibitors for the online fair?

Andy: The response has been very positive and the exhibitors who have committed to the Online Book Fair are keen to achieve very targeted objectives from attending. The platform that we are using is very intuitive and easy to use. With AI technology which provides recommendations based on business objectives, exhibitors can quickly target the most relevant new contacts for them. We’ve confirmed a wide range of exhibiting partners this year – ranging from global publishing houses such as HarperCollins and Quarto; to Cambridge & Oxford University Presses, STM publishers including Wiley, Scholastic as well as independent publishers; children’s publishers and publishing technology providers.

AABP: What are your expectations from the fair this year?

Andy: I’d like for our exhibitors to make new connections and to establish lasting business relationships. I’m fully expecting great attendance throughout the seminar programme, as we’ve got some top speakers and sessions running. I’m particularly excited about our Keynote event with Yomi Adegoke, co-author of the acclaimed  Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, who will be discussing diversity in publishing and how the industry can become more inclusive and accessible. Bestselling writer Matt Haig is our Author of the Fair, and I can’t wait to see his event with journalist Viv Groskop. We’ll also have fascinating sessions with Sherri Aldis, Chief of United Nations Publications, talking about the UN’s Green Book Alliance and sustainable publishing; and Bodour Al Qasimi, from the International Publishers Association, speaking on why accessibility to books is essential for children around the world.

AABP: How many visitors have registered for the event?

Andy: There are already more than 2,000 visitors from 70 countries registered for the Online Book Fair, and knowing the varied roles and companies in attendance, I am certain that there will be fantastic business to be done at the event.

AABP: How has the pandemic changed the face of exhibitions?

Andy: In the short term it brought them to a grinding halt; it is great to see exhibitions now taking place again in many parts of the world – and with the correct measures in place, they can be again in the UK, which can only be a good thing for the many businesses that they support. We know from speaking to our customers that there is a real desire to get back to seeing each other face-to-face and we are very much looking forward to making that happen next April for LBF.

AABP: Once the pandemic is over, do you see a trend of hybrid exhibitions? Why/Why not?

Andy: I think even before the pandemic there was a shift –with businesses and individuals looking at how exhibitions can engage with the widest community possible. We want to ensure that our events are sustainable, inclusive and valuable to all who are part of them, and as such there are some big positives to hybrid fairs. That being said, we are under no illusion that some of the opportunities created in a face-to-face environment are hard to replace.  We are now in a position where the world has seen what a fully digital marketplace looks like, which can only help as we all move forward.

AABPWhat message would you like to give to the publishing community?

Andy: We fully appreciate that there have been a lot of online events, and we don’t want the Online Book Fair to add to any kind of fatigue. Instead, it has been designed to be flexible – for attendees to be able to hop on and off and for there to be changes to connect and learn throughout – without feeling overwhelmed. We can’t wait to welcome the world of publishing from 21st June.

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