Automotive EMC 2004 Conference: Organisers Viewpoint


The Automotive EMC conference for 2004 was located at Newbury Racecourse to co-locate with a larger EMC exhibition (EMC UK 2004).  The co-location was hoped to bring in more delegates due to increased press releases from the main exhibition publicity and the opportunity for exhibitors to display their services at a much higher quality of exhibition than the Automotive EMC network is able to organise.


In my opinion, and that of other Automotive EMC Network members in attendance, the quality of this years papers and presentations was of a very high standard, equaling the dizzy heights set at out inaugural event in 2003.  


The Hampshire Stand, Newbury Racecourse, venue for Automotive EMC 2004.

The venue was excellent, the reception and dining area having a panoramic view of the racecourse and the conference room offering a very light screened surround allowing the possibility to compose notes while viewing the presentations themselves.  The "cabaret" style layout presented a relaxed atmosphere for the conference and the only negative side from my viewpoint was the lack of instructions to get the PA System working for the first two presentations (for which I must apologise to the first two speakers; Terry Beadman and Alastair Ruddle).  We took on board some of last years comments and managed to provide much improved delegate identifiers (badges) and all presentations kept to time (increased from 2003) and did not accidentally "auto-advance".  Delegates this year also had leather bookmarks and a delegate bag provided thanks to some generous sponsorship from 3C Test Ltd, Hursley EMC Ltd, Flomerics, ETS-Lindgren, EMV Ltd and DARE!!!


 Room layout and facilities were excellent.

The conference mix was approximately 50:50 of test subjects to design, with the test and standards taking up the morning session and design issues aired in the afternoon.  This mix was reflected in the delegate bias with 50% from Automotive Electronics Tiered suppliers and with a significant proportion of delegates this year from Tier 1 companies, although Automotive OEM attendance remained low at 11% and there was little government body attendance this year (just 1 person), especially compared to 2003 where 15% of the attendees were from UK government agencies.  Overseas attendance (i.e. delegates from outside of the UK) was lower at 25% compared to 40% in 2003, however we still attracted delegates from as far away as Japan and Pakistan, as well as our closer European neighbours (again we had no US attendees).


Christine Hodgins of 3C Test Ltd again handled delegate registrations.

Overall attendance this year was disappointingly low at 31 (32 registered), compared to the 66 attendees at the 2003 conference.  We have been analysing why the attendance was so low and have no single solution, but a few ideas why the event was less successful at attracting delegates;

1. Competition from the EMC UK 2004 Conference: we expected to loose 20 or so of the attendees of last years event to this conference, so to some extent we were not that surprised to have a lower figure.   However, it appears a generic EMC conference will take more "Automotive EMC" customers away from our event than we expected and we have resolved not to have the Automotive EMC conference co-located at a generic EMC event that already includes a conference in the future (it is probably equally true that we took a similar number of delegates away from the EMC UK 2004 conference).  We would like to co-locate again with other events if possible, but will look for associated automotive or electronics events that are not explicitly EMC oriented.


2. Not enough papers: we do not think this is a reason for the lower attendance in itself (feedback from the 2003 delegates suggested that 14 papers was too many for a single day) and all the papers were of a similar high calibre to the previous years conference. The lower number of papers (9 presented; we had already decided to reduce to a maximum of 12) may indicate a possible lack of overall Automotive EMC work in the UK to accommodate an annual conference.  The generic conference inviting all our 2003 speakers, bar a few, to speak at their conference may also have lessened our input.  We had already decided that we wished to move to Germany with the conference on alternate years and we are doing this for 2005, the UK event will now become a biennial conference on even numbered years (next UK Automotive EMC Conference is due in 2006).


3. Location: Newbury is re-known for being difficult to get to and from during the rush-hour.  It is unlikely we would have chosen such a venue were it not for the co-location with EMC UK 2004.  The impact of the venue we believe is marginal in itself, however, we would prefer a more Automotive oriented location (2003 was in Newport Pagnell, "The home of Aston Martin Lagonda").  We are already looking for a more "automotive centric" venue for 2006, any ideas are welcomed to the usual e-mail address.


4. Increased cost: we have no evidence that the increase in cost (purely due to the venue costs) were a factor in putting off any delegates, although if this is a factor that discouraged any readers please get in touch via e-mail.  We hope to reduce the cost for 2006 as we will again have full cost control over the event as we will not be co-locating for 2006.  Cost for 2005 are still being finalised but look likely to be similar to 2004 costs (again due to the venue costs).


5. Other technical events: it is true that the week of the conference was very busy with other events, the IPC Designers Learning Symposium, Embedded Systems Engineering Exhibition and Conference to name but two UK events.  These may have diluted our design delegate audience and two of our speakers also presented at the IPC event themselves, so there was both automotive and EMC content at this symposium.  We would certainly have preferred to retain our original and quieter November slot but again as a co-located event we had no choice on date and at the time of booking our event the other exhibitions and symposia had not been planned.  We feel this may be part of the reason for our low overseas delegates this year as there were other automotive electronic and design events in both France and Germany during this week and the preceding week.


6. Lack of advertising: we do not have any advertising budget as such and rely on press release pick-up by the trade journals to help our advertising.  We were expecting to get some coverage via the EMC UK 2004 Exhibition, hence part of our co-location reason.  However, with the exception of mentions in EMC & Compliance Journal (who are the organisers of EMC UK 2004) we achieved very little press coverage outside of the internet (our main advertising media).  We did get mentioned in the IEE EMC Professional Network newsletter (again an e-mail only media) towards the end of September.  We accept that this may have been a significant contributory factor to the low attendance, however, we can not run the event at the low cost we do and afford advertising spend.  We didn't have any additional advertising for 2003 and this was a well attended event so we are still undecided on the effectiveness of additional advertising.  This is being reviewed for the 2005 event (for which we have two media co-sponsors) and will be re-assessed again for 2006.

We are constantly learning and are hoping to take some lessons from this years event forward for future Automotive EMC Conferences, in particular no future co-location with other EMC events.  The Automotive EMC Network is dedicated to this niche field of EMC and electrical design and still believe generic EMC conferences do not offer adequate coverage for the designers of automotive electronics or the test service providers who cater for this market.  We have already started the push in the German market for our 2005 conference, mainly thanks to our German hosts (AMA Service GmbH) and media sponsors (EMC & Compliance Journal and Automotive Digest).  The conference pages on the web site and the site in general is still attracting new visitors and we are examining how to best cater for our visitors with future conferences.  We are also still investigating methods of increasing our visibility to attract those in the field of Automotive EMC who are still unaware of our existence and we would welcome any input on this from readers. 


Press table was a popular feature with all EMC titles and most Automotive titles being taken by the delegates.

We are therefore looking forward to Automotive EMC 2005: "The Road to Compliance" in Nuremberg with renewed vigour.  Our initial responses from the German market has been incredibly positive and despite the low attendance at this years event we are expecting the first Automotive EMC Conference in Germany to exceed our inaugural UK event and have in excess of 75 attendees. 


Martin O'Hara

15 October 2004  


The results of the questionnaire which illustrates the feedback from delegates at the conference is available at; 2004                                                           TOP OF PAGE                                                                 HOME