In the last month I visited both the Airshow (a family trip) and the Motorshow (with my wife) and have to say that professionally I found them both ‘good’ events. The organisation, logistics and operations were astounding and I salute the organisers for putting on a good show. As a visitor, however, I focussed on my experience and how that would affect my purchasing or decision to attend the next time. I tried to become ‘robo-visitor’ and record my observations as well as the ‘feel-good’ factor as a result of being there.

I do understand the problems associated with casual staff and temporary hires, unfortunately they are the front line and they are almost wholly responsible for the mood of the visitor even before they enter the show. When half-witted, gum-chewing, (obviously illiterate or innumerate) semi-coherent tattooed oik (was that tattooist?) directs you into the wrong car park, despite your clearly displayed badge, when you have been queuing in traffic for hours and is then unable to redirect you, the first impression upon robo-visitor isn’t great. Likewise when you join the throng and your badge / ticket is not catered for by the signage pandemonium ensues. Dimwit is joined by jobsworth and embarrassment and frustration result. However, we are not disheartened as we recognise this behaviour as similar to the painful process these days that is called security control at airports. A necessary evil before you can continue your journey.

So long before robo-visitor enters the halls (or displays) their optimistic, excited and energetic mood is diluted by the bouncers. At last entry is afforded and it is then the turn of the exhibitors to exert an influence. Some smile, many ignore you, others are too engrossed in that obviously important mobile call and finishing their sandwich. We (my party and I) had to initiate the conversation at nearly every stand we visited or wait long enough to attract someone’s eye (with the exception of a lady who was armed with a clipboard and a petition patrolling the aisles). I did feel at the motor show, for example, that we were in the way and the need to re-polish their exhibits was far more important than interacting with the visitor. Likewise the interactive element was underused. Don’t get me wrong, at the airshow for example, all the ‘family entertainment’ was sponsored and the kids could enjoy helterskelters, rock-climbing, simulators and all manner of distractions. How many stands though had an interactive element where you could ease into a conversation? Not many at all. Sometimes a direct approach or walking onto a stand can be scary and an ‘excuse’ to be there would ease those nerves.

I do feel sometimes that exhibitors miss a great opportunity to improve the visitor’s mood and get them smiling or laughing as a precursor to qualifying them. A hotel will often provide flowers or chocolates unexpectedly. A busy restaurant may offer a complimentary pre-dinner drink. It is about exceeding expectations and providing a feel good factor. Something to make your visit more memorable and your company stand out. The organisers of both events knew the value in this wow factor. The awesome driving displays and the impressive air displays all held the attention of the visitor and allowed them to savour the memory long after the journey back home. That is long after the memory of their reception faded. Overall their evaluation of an event would be a mathematical sum – how much ‘fun’ did I have and how much value / information did I get compared with the price of admission, lunch and the aggravation of queuing and being herded? For me personally they were both worth it – and I have some really good pictures on my phone, some of cars, some of planes but mostly of a few cretinous exhibitors behaving atrociously that will appear in a How Not to Exhibit Yourself presentation shortly!