22nd February 2007

The main Event Show

John Spain enjoys a couple of days at Olympia apart, that is, from living statues and poor exhibitors

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 show, it is actually the small crowd of smokers gathered on the pavement enjoying a quick lug before going back into the show.

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 access 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. Those of you that know me of old will maybe remember my loathing of registration. I won’t bore you with a rant here suffice to say that I am constantly amazed that what should be a simple process always turns into a disaster-filled ordeal, the very worst welcome to a show that you can give your visitor.

Anyway, the Event Show registration was just fine so hats off to whoever ran it.

Once in the hall I was pleased to find quite a buzzy atmosphere with the aisles seemingly well populated with visitors. Obviously it’s too early to have the audited attendance but exhibitors I spoke to reckoned it was quieter than usual, however, 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 people 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

Well, that was a rant wasn’t it? The trouble is that exhibitions can give you so much to rant about.

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 at the show, 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 one sees 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.