20th December 2006

It starts with a word

John Spain thinks the industry’s greatest problem is the public

The Christmas period is often a time when people look back over the year and take stock of their lives before concentrating on the New Year and the unknown, but inevitable, challenges that will be faced.
As you will see in this month’s feature, the EIA is doing this very thing this Christmas after an encouraging start. Some excellent work has been put in and a number of its initial targets have been met but, as Trevor Foley agrees, this is only the beginning and 2007 is going to be even busier as the association doubles its efforts to spread the live events message to the wider outside world.
I applaud these efforts. We have long needed to get better recognition from a variety of organisations such as government and marketing agencies, so the EIA’s work is crucial.
In my opinion, the hardest nut to crack isn’t the government or marketing agencies, it’s actually the great British public. In my years of involvement with the events industry I have remained astounded by the level of ignorance about events that friends and acquaintances demonstrate about events.
Sure, everyone’s heard of the Motor Show and the Boat Show but apart from these notable examples the world of events hardly comes up over the horizon. Even people who know about exhibitions, because they go to one that concerns their own industry, rarely put two and two together and work out that if their industry has a show then so must all the others.
How many times have I been asked ‘what goes on in Olympia, Excel or the NEC?’ Most people think of them as concert or sporting venues and don’t realise that these places are filled throughout the year by a rich variety of live events.
As if ignorance isn’t bad enough we then have the problem of laziness and inertia. This is something especially felt by trade show organisers, some of whom are having a hard time of it at the moment trying to persuade people that a day at an exhibition could be just the thing that you or your business needs.
It seems strange that if you’re into collecting beer mats you will move heaven and earth to get up at four in the morning in order to get to the NEC in time for the doors opening at 9.30. But, if you had to do the same thing for your work, which after all you spend a large part of your life doing, you won’t bother.
I really don’t know how we educate all these people. Perhaps it’s simply down to word of mouth. How about everyone in the events industry, over the Christmas holiday, talking to three people they know who don’t really have much idea about live events. If we all took just three minutes to explain what they do we could increase our potential visitor numbers by a significant amount.
This may sound like a ludicrous idea, especially at Christmas when we all have numerous more important things to do. But then again, what could be more important than marketing our industry to the widest possible number of people? It has to start somewhere.
Alright, I’ll let you off, maybe the Christmas Day session in the pub isn’t the best time to start extolling the virtues of going to an exhibition. I insist however, that you make it one of your New Year’s resolutions, it’s one that you could tick off very quickly.
In the meantime, Christmas is one live event in the year that always seems to be more or less successful so, whatever you’re planning, I hope the visitors are all happy and that the catering is up to standard.
Merry Christmas.

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