First published on LinkedIn

150 committed volunteers spent their Saturday in Dubbo looking at the challenges and opportunities ahead for 192 ag shows in NSW, big and small.

Combined, their shows will have a visitor attendance of more than 1.2 million people this year, quite an extraordinary reach.

While agshows have common goals and origins, and many similarities (competitions, carnival, entertainment and so forth), they are also as unique as the communities that enjoy them and the committee of volunteers who run them.

Saturday’s conference was a rare chance to come together and share innovations and solutions. The event is organised by the peak body Agshows NSW, and pleasingly, the majority in the audience were repeat attendees with strong cohort of first timers, and a mix of experience and youthfulness.

As emcee, I asked show organisers to set a framework for the day by reflecting on:

  • A positive move their show has made in the last year or two
  • An exciting opportunity on the horizon for their show
  • The biggest issue their show has faced in recent years
  • The single biggest risk to their show in the next 12 months

We delved into agritourism trends with Kate Shilling. After all, the sector holds huge market potential for the next chapter of the evolution of agshows. In 2022-23, agritourism was valued at $175 billion. Read more about the ideas agshows can leverage here.

Importantly, we had a very raw and robust discussion about risk management and crisis communication including case studies with Lynelle Smith, CFE, Hugh Southwell, and Jeremy Mitchell. Thanks to a vibrant colourful mix of rides, foods, animals, people, large machinery, and more (all the things that make shows amazing) – the possibility of an incident at any of our agshows is likely. It can be the death of livestock in a public setting, biosecurity threats, knives and gangs violence, accidents on rides, the loss of access to a facility, a disagreement over showground usage, animal activist protests, fireworks landing on patrons, rogue exhibitor behaviour, volunteers not turning up to man the gate, a major entertainment act falling through at the last minute… These are just some of the crises and challenges I have seen shows face. But there are countless others that have and could happen. Here’s what we learned from seasoned experts.

We also dove into the data available to shows on both patrons and exhibitors, providing a roadmap to customer loyalty.

Plus we shared 16 free marketing strategies every show should trial, with the brilliant Jenn Donovan – Small Business Marketing Coach.

It is always great to see the alumni involved with the likes of Emily King (2023 Binnaway Show Young Woman) capturing photographs, and Florance McGufficke running engagement activities. Thanks to Hamish Southwell for capturing the event for Channel Seven, and Elka Devney for coverage in The Land.

AgShows are all grateful for the enduring and enthusiastic support of Dugald Saunders MP.

To President Jill Chapman and chief executive Brooke Beales – you’re building a wonderful new era of shows sharing, integrating, and collaborating towards a stronger future.

Looking forward to the conference in Armidale in 2025.