Eric Lenoir, Director of SILMO trade shows

Silmo is 50 years old! Eric Lenoir talks about the celebrations at SILMO Paris, international developments and the future plans of the brand which already runs four trade shows.

How did you celebrate this anniversary?

We didn’t want to celebrate alone but rather create an event involving as many people as possible. For example, we also wished happy birthday to participants who turned 50 during the show and showcased the iconic products of the last 50 years by asking the exhibitors to tell us which product, old or new, had made its mark on their company’s history. We also asked 50 designers to work on their vision of the optical industry of the future. These 50 concepts were combined in a limited edition box which we gifted to our VIPs and the press. And to add to the festive mood, we installed one-armed bandits at the show, which dispensed goodies and offered some great prizes. The high point was of course our anniversary evening on 7 October at the Grand Palais, in conjunction with Promosalons, at which we paid tribute to the six Silmo pioneers, companies who have been present at every edition for the last 50 years.

Were there any major new developments at Silmo Paris 2017?

We introduced matchmaking, a major Comexposium group initiative and vital for keeping the show current and attractive. The idea is to match the right offering with the right buyer. The offerings and buyers are carefully vetted and then a match is made using an artificial intelligence tool. The contact made at the show does not end there, but continues for the whole year.

Can you tell us about your international development strategy?

Five years ago, we began to identify the regions where it would be worthwhile rolling out our brand. We began with Istanbul in 2004, then Sydney in 2017 and we will be in Bangkok in 2018. In doing this, we are supporting the key industry players in high potential markets and helping to spread the word about the profession worldwide. Our international expansion also raises the profile of Silmo Paris in these regions. Experience in Istanbul has shown us that these trade shows can be taken to other countries worldwide and be of interest not only to distributors but also to the parent companies. Working with Promosalons allowed us to increase the percentage of international visitors at the third edition to 15%.

The Promosalons network has supported you for some 30 years. How would you describe your experience of this collaboration?

Promosalons has played a major role in Silmo’s international development. During the acquisition phase, from about 1995 to 2005, we pursued all the delegations. Today the trade show is more mature, so our focus is loyalty and networking. We have a much better system for identifying and working with our targets. We focus on the countries with the highest margin for improvement and have come a long way from the early mass marketing. Delegates have become ambassadors recognised by the optics professionals in their respective countries. Furthermore, to help us reach the influencers we have just started working with Promosalons Paris on a project harnessing the knowledge of a specialist start-up. It is being trialled in France, the UK and Germany, and if successful will be rolled out to other countries.

What message would you like to pass on to delegates?

Our way of working may be changing, but human relations are still at the heart of our business model. I would like to tell the delegates to remain passionate about what they do, and to continue to share that passion with us, while moving forward with us, sharing ideas and good practices, and always being on the lookout for new tools they can exploit. For me, the partnership dimension is vital.