If you want to know why MAP Live is turning heads, ask any one of the exhibitors to the new roving trade show built around six demonstration days at different locations across the UK.
Take Campey Turf Care Systems managing director Richard Campey: "There is no better way to illustrate how effective something is than by live demo. Agriculture has excelled at events that expose modern equipment in working conditions to potential users. It is time our industry did the same.
"This series of demonstration days will provide us with a good opportunity to introduce grounds professionals to some of our renovation machinery in a hands-on situation close to their homes. Not only can we showcase our products, we will be able to conduct a complete renovation process from start to finish at each venue."
Products on show
Some of those products include the Koro field-top maker, a range of Dakota machines for people weighing up various models of turf-tender kit and the Omarv flail mower collector. But rather than force you to travel a long way to attend a big trade fair, all this kit will travel to you. The shows will cover England, Scotland and Wales.
MAP Live has already gone live. The launch show at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, is due to take place on 24 April. For three months, the roadshow will travel down to Ardingly in West Sussex, across to Chepstow and up into Stirling (see box).
Exhibitors lined up for either the first event and/or subsequent events so far include Avant Tecno, Bagma, BLEC Global, Campey Turf Care Systems, Compact Tractor Centre, Complete Weed Control, Ernest Doe, Etesia, Fleet Line Markers, New Holland, Rampco, Simon Richards, The Sports Turf Research Institute, Weather Action, Worsley Plant and JSM.
MAP Live director Clare Johnson, who used to handle sales and marketing for Saltex, debated long and hard with her team on whether to launch a trade show in these tricky times. In the end, her mind was made up by vibes from the many industry relationships she has built up over the years. People want something new, but something with a difference.
"We didn't want to do anything that's already out there," she explains. "A lot of people were asking about roadshows and demo days, but if everyone wants to do the same thing and it's all happening within a narrow time frame when the weather is relatively likely to be fine, you tend to end up salami slicing your audience.
"It would be better to work together to a theme, target what's really hot and wrap it up with a short, sharp seminar burst and relevant demos to show how you can get results when budgets are under pressure. We will never get absolutely everyone but at least this covers most sectors and areas. It will interest local authorities, landscapers, contractors and sports venues."
That theme is "how to achieve excellent results on sports and amenity open spaces when headcount and budgets have been slashed. It fits the requirements of hard-pressed buyers from local authorities, parish councils, contractors and sports venues." Johnson insists she is "not trying to roll out a 400-strong national event".
Some exhibitors will be at all the venues while others may try one and then tweak the offering for more shows. Some may only do one in their main catchment area. She expects visitor numbers to roll into the hundreds between the first show at Stoneleigh Park on 24 April and the last at Chepstow Racecourse on 17 July.
From the buyers' side, she says: "They no longer have the time to travel far to see equipment and make buying decisions. Some can't even leave their county, so MAP Live is reflecting how the world is now. Since the comprehensive spending review and the credit crunch, the world has changed."
MAP Live is perfect timing for Worsley Plant. The construction kit maker is keen to move into the landscape sector, says marketing manager Juliet Perrett. It will exhibit screening and crushing buckets as well as digger kit at Stirling in Scotland, Haydock Park in the North West and Chepstow Racecourse.
"MAP Live is new and the landscape industry is something we haven't previously targeted. This form of show is a good idea. We are not a massive company but our sales staff cover different parts of the UK. We tend to do local rather than national, targeting and the small, tight nature of this event should help give us more focus."
Compact Tractor Centre, which distributes New Holland machines, demonstrated three tractors at Stoneleigh Park. Dealer principal Nathan Walker says he chose the Coventry venue because it is 10 miles from his base and will give a strong local boost to business, "which will benefit even more if we have some sunshine".
Come rain or sun, ground staff need to go to shows, explore demonstrations and keep up to date to improve their skills, says HW technical editor Sally Drury, who will be introducing demonstrations. "Staff may inspect their pitches and phone contractors, but they need to look beyond their venue to boost their knowledge," she points out. HW is media partner for the events.
This view strikes a chord with New Holland agriculture brand communications manager Sara Sebastianelli: "The key to professional selling in this industry is to give customers the opportunity to have a clear indication of machine performance. The best way to do that is a live demonstration. MAP Live should achieve just that.
"After many years of showing at static shows, machinery manufacturers and distributors now have the chance to really show customers what they have to offer. New Holland has just recently launched our new range of Boomer compact tractors alongside the Boomer 3000 range, and visitors will be able to see all these new products working in the field."
BLEC Global, which was lined up for the debut show at Stoneleigh Park, was due to roll out its Cultipack Seeder CP36, Rotorake SR3H, Power Box Rakes, compact Blecavator and Multiseeder BMS 1400. Managing director Gary Mumby points out that the power of MAP Live lies in its regional basis.
"We believe MAP Live is the future for manufacturing companies like ourselves - promoting our products around the country," he adds. The aim of regional, well-organised, one-day events is to attract potential customers to a working demonstration day in their area to minimise their loss of working time. The wide variety of equipment on show at the events is also a major attraction."
Other kit includes Finnish-built machines from Avant Tecno, which is also introducing a financing deal. Sales manager Jukka Vaattovaara says: "Besides demonstrating our kit, we will promote specially tailored contract hire packages so companies or individuals can acquire a brand new loader plus up to three suitable attachments, and even a trailer."
Anything that helps members of the British Agricultural & Garden Machinery Association is welcome, according to its director Keith Christian. The group is hosting a demo arena at each event. "MAP Live will allow our members to save time on travelling to network with others and meet regional customers," he explains.
The first year of MAP Live is the 60th of Fleet Line Markers. The company says: "When you're recognised as the best, the best way to prove it is by demonstration days. So when asked to take part in all six MAP Live events, we agreed, because once you've proved the product, the only way to keep proving it is through more demonstrations."
Johnson echoes the words of such a seasoned veteran. "So much of this industry depends on seeing what machines can do through live action," she maintains. "We wondered whether a collaborative approach would work for everyone. For some it's important to do a roadshow on their own, which is understandable. But I'm pleased that people have been prepared to collaborate."
Show details - Roving demonstration days
When and Where
24 April Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire
15 May South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex
5 June Haydock Park Racecourse, Merseyside
19 June Sedgefield Racecourse, Stockton-on-Tees, Durham
3 July Stirling, Scotland
17 July Chepstow Racecourse, Monmouthshire, Wales
Contact Call 01962 736989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
MAP Live Guest speakers scheduled to address the events
Piers Corbyn, the owner of Weather Action, is due to speak on all matters meteorological at each venue.
Also attending all the seminars will be the Sports Turf Research Institute. Its talks will include one by project manager Darra Hudner on the latest techniques in sports turf management, along with stories on preparing the equestrian course for the London 2012 Olympic Games last summer and pitches for the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil.
Also lined up to speak at the first event were Simon Gumbrill (Campey Turf Care Systems), Ian Graham (Complete Weed Control), Iain Courage (Fleet Line Markers), Jukka Vaattovaara (Avant Tecno) and Nathan Walker (Compact Tractor Centre).