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January 30, 2007

SPOTLIGHT: The Event Show

Inevitably, in this day and age of anti-smoking legislation, the first thing you see as you approach Olympia is not the sign bearing the name of the Event Show, it is actually the small crowd of smokers gathered on the pavement enjoying a quick lug before going back into the event.
This group’s numbers are steadily replenished through the day, which means that by the afternoon there is a pretty impressive pile of butts strewn around for the visitor to wade through as they attempt to enter the show.
None of this is the fault of the Event Show, although maybe organisers should demand that the venues they use are kept cleaner than they often are during exhibitions.
Suitably fortified by a couple of enthusiastic pulls on a cigarette, I went into the hall and, to my astonishment, had a trouble-free registration – most exhibitions turn what should be a simple process into an ordeal, the very worst welcome you can give your visitor.

Catching the buzz
In the hall there was a real buzz, with the aisles well populated with visitors. However, exhibitors I spoke to reckoned it was quieter than usual, but they all said that they had nevertheless seen some very good people and had a number of good leads to follow up back at the office.
I always find the Event Show an eclectic mix of event service providers. Alongside the big players like Thorns and Arena, there are the smaller operators who maybe just have one product, such as an electricity generator or mobile toilets to offer. Then there are the badging companies and promotional merchandise firms who all have their role to play in the events process.
These at least have a useful purpose. Conversely, can anyone tell me what function is served by people on stilts, Prince of Wales and Basil Fawlty look-alikes and those ludicrous individuals who paint themselves silver and stand very still pretending to be statues? They are an utter pestilence and there is no room for them in modern events. We are in an industry that is desperately trying to show the outside world that we can be smart and sexy, and these people with their sub Old Curiosity Shop antics just give it a bad name.

Apologies for the rant, but then the trouble is that exhibitions can give you so much to rant about.    

Can’t stand it
Another example of this is the people who exhibit badly and then presumably wonder why they’ve had a rubbish time. There were a number of gilt-edged examples of this last week at Olympia, the prize definitely going to a furniture hire company that had simply brought along four examples of each of its range and piled them up on the stand. There are junk shops on every high street in the country that look more attractive to potential customers.
Not to be overlooked were the people who were sitting on their stands and tucking into their sandwiches. For some of these people, the eating marathon went on all day. In fact, you could easily tell what time of the day it was by looking at what was on the menu at a given point. Excellent gourmandising, terrible exhibiting.
There were, however, a number of first-rate stands where the staff were clearly working the show with the result that they were constantly busy and, one would hope, setting up good prospects.
A fine example of this was the team from Knebworth that were the only venue in the show. They had clearly thought out the box and decided to exhibit. After all, if it is intended for event organisers to meet suppliers, you may as well offer them your venue. This was good thinking and they reported a busy couple of days.
If they and the other worthy exhibitors can do it then it becomes all the more heartbreaking when you see those who let the side down. But that’s not just the Event Show, it happens at just about every other exhibition in the UK.
With an attractive seminar programme the Event Show makes a worthwhile start to the events industry exhibition calendar and a few hours spent there would not be time wasted.

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