It may be a trial by fire, but there’s nothing like going out on-site when you’re starting a new job in event management, says Clarion Events’ new head of sales, James Howard.

To say I’ve had more straightforward first days on the job would be an understatement! Walking into the organisers’ office on the opening morning of January Furniture Show to start my new role as head of sales was unusual, to say the least.

While most sensible people are parked on a comfy sofa thumbing through the Sunday Times and nursing a warm mug of tea, I was giving out awards, shaking hands with industry leaders and having photos taken with award winners – much of which involved those beautifully designed comfy sofas I might normally be found sitting on of a Sunday morning, ironically.

I’ve worked on a number of events over the years, from networking and conferences to consumer and trade events – but the January Furniture Show felt special (and by that, I mean as in feeling ‘at home’). 

Instantly, I got a great feeling walking around the show on that first morning. The layout is exceptionally well planned, with Premium Design in hall 1, through to halls 4 and 5 where one could find all kinds of upholstery and beds. There’s hall 2, which hosts incredible international brands showcasing what our neighbours in Europe are producing, and then, last but by no means least, there’s hall 3, where one can find those finishing touches, from artwork to soft furnishings.

My background has afforded me the opportunity to understand the mind of a premium consumer, the workings of an interior design project (having worked on Channel 4’s Grand Designs Live for two years), and the buying appetite of a retail distributor. All of this will help me and my fantastic team deliver the UK’s most important furniture shows (as we organise not only the January Furniture Show, but also its sister event, Manchester Furniture Show, in July).

We have ambitious plans for both shows, which include complementing these already successful events with some exciting new sectors – I can’t give too much away at this stage, but keep an eye on our website and social media for details …

As organisers, we are pleased to announce our revamped VIP programme, which encourages our partners and clients to nominate the buyers they would like to meet at our events. Our team will contact these buyers directly and offer a number of benefits to encourage them to visit the shows – for some, we’ll even pay for their accommodation.

We are looking at a 365 [should that be 366?!] sales and marketing approach. Our two shows account for seven days of trading per year, so we are working to increase our activities to help you, our visitors and exhibitors, get even more from the exhibitions for the rest of the year.

I’m really excited about the future of the January and Manchester furniture shows – we have lots of work to do, and I’m confident that the events will continue to go from strength to strength. 

My door is always open to hearing our customers’ feedback, and, when it comes to actioning suggestions, I pride myself on ‘making it happen’!