Realty targets high quality and wishes to attract public sector

Tim Harrup

Having recently announced that Realty would be taking place in Brussels in September, organiser Mathieu Van Marcke (Easyfairs) has now given details of the way the show will be structured. In an interview he indicated that the quality of seminar content and the desire to attract a high quality of visitors, including the public sector, were at the top of the list of priorities. Pro-realestate: Is the philosophy for Realty 2021 the same as in 2019 – mostly conferences?

Mathieu Van Marcke: Yes, we are finishing the transformation of Realty from a traditional trade show into what we refer to as a summit which means that content becomes much more important. It also means that the business model shifts from one where revenues are mostly generated by partners and visitors were basically invited by partners, to a more shared model between both.

Do you know whether participants like this formula?

We carry out a survey after each edition, and we know that satisfaction levels were higher for the new style Realty. We use a system called a net promoter score, which measures how likely visitors are to advise other people to come to the show in the future. We were at 6.9 (out of 10) in 2017, 6.3 in 2018 and now we are up at 7.1 in 2019. Anything over 7 is considered a very good score. We also observed that the numbers of those who were very positively promoting us was much higher, and the ‘complainers’ were much lower. So we believe we’re on the right track.

What about visitor numbers?

We have fewer visitors than for traditional trade fairs, but this is also a choice. It means that we can attract a higher quality of visitors who want to explore the content we have on offer. We were at around 1,500 last time and we are targeting 2,000 this time. We are really focusing on real estate decision-makers. We think that 2,000 is a good representation of the decision-makers in the real estate industry in Belgium. The Gare Maritime is also an excellent location because it offers sufficient space, even if the government were to impose in September a minimal surface per participant. We also expect that each visitor will have to show a vaccination pas or a PCR test to access the summit.

Will there be any physical stands?

There are no more stands in the manner of renting out space for exhibitors to build their presentations. Instead, we offer our partners a mix of products, and they can link their branding and their message to certain topics. One of the things we offer is ‘touchpoints’ within the Gare Maritime, places where you can organize small meetings and offer a drink to your visitors. There are screens for your presentations, catering for partners and guests – basically a place to sit down and have discussions. Partners can also book tables in the Realty restaurant for more traditional meals with clients. The concept is more like a flexible office space. There will also be the possibility for partners to scan their visitor and build up data in this way.
We have had a good reaction from our partners about this – including the fact that they don’t have all the hassle of designing and building a traditional stand. We also offer them high visibility in the media (depending on the formula chosen) and at the fair itself.

Are you doing anything for the next generation of real estate professionals?

Yes, we have noted that the real estate industry does not really promote itself to the young, to the students it will need in the future. Students in the last year of university may be attracted to go into one or other industry, but they don’t know much about real estate. So we are encouraging students to write a motivation letter and we select the 100 best students, and invite them to come and see (on the last day) what sort of job within the overall industry might be for them. Our partners can also present themselves to the students – some of them, such as AG Real Estate – have management training programmes for students.

Finally, why have you moved from Knokke back to Brussels?

The Realty summit wants to support the real estate sector where it is most needed: some major issues (e.g. construction permits, urban vision...) require more dialogue between the public and private sector. A majority of decisions in terms of building in cities requires the participation of the public sector (town planning etc.). Realty wants to offer this transparent platform for public and private meetings, yet we previously had only 4% of visitors from the public sector. Part of this is due to sensitivity about visiting places like Cannes, Knokke... So we have set up partnerships with public organisations (a good example is, the federation of Director Generals of cities and communes in Flanders) to increase their presence. They will help us to attract more local authorities and urban planning administrations to Realty on 21st and 22nd September.