Yesterday I went to attend the Procurex exhibition at the NEC, at the same time, it was the last day of the Focusing on Imaging show next door, so I poked my head in there to see what was going on. I couldn’t believe how I was treated as a visitor to both exhibitions. It was fascinating as I don’t go to exhibitions as a visitor often. If I do, they are usually ones for work, and I know a lot of the stands. These two I didn’t and blimey, what a difference! I will take them in order…
– Free entry, last afternoon of 2-day show
For those of you with a life, you won’t have heard of this show. It is a “one-stop shop for public sector professionals tasked with buying within all roles – from procurement officers to IT managers – Procurex National will offer hands-on guidance and information on a wide variety of procurement topics, including the latest EU regulations. It will also provide a forum for discussion on the changing face of public sector procurement, examining how to meet the efficiency challenge.”
Trust me, it wouldn’t be top of my list of shows to attend but I had good reason to be there! I only had one stand to go and see, but I did go and look at other stands. Not one – that is right none, of the stands talked to me without me talking to them first. They knew nothing about me – I was in a suit and tie, was looking keen, but it was left to me to talk to them. There were two stands that even though I went up to them and talked, it looked like it was the last thing I should have done and they did everything in their power to move me on! There were two big errors:
- One stand that was a group of companies acting as one. Every person had a different story. Every person said – oh, I don’t know about that, why don’t you ask x. None of them really knew what was happening.
- One big brand name had a stand and was holding a meeting between two sales people. I went onto the stand a couple of times, hung around to talk and it was made quite obvious that I was going to be in the way.
Therefore, I gathered up everything I needed and went onto the one I was much more interested in (from a personal perspective)…
Focus On Imaging – £10 entry, last afternoon of 4 day show
This one I paid to get into. Therefore you would think that the stand holders would think that the visitors were committed to talking, buying and interacting. I went in with a very small budget to spend. I was keen to look at a new lens for my Nikon and maybe a filter.
I walked about – slightly lost to start with as I hadn’t planned on being there – and after a short while got incredibly frustrated by the complete lack of interest from the stand holders. There was a raft of problems:
- Some stands completely ignored me – even when I went on and looked very keen. I had to ask the questions.
- As soon as I walked by a couple of stands they said “do you want a catalogue?” – I took one, and they moved on to the next person thinking their job was done.
- I did go onto a stand as the frames they had looked very cool. I wanted to take the two that I really liked with me – but they don’t sell off stands! Not only that, but if I wanted to order, I had to pay a £15 courier fee per item. Crazy.
- Where stands were quiet, it was almost a given that the staff on the stand were on their Blackberry’s, mobile phones or sitting down reading a magazine.
- One stand (and this is entirely personal) smelt that I had walked into Boots. There must have been five or six very strong perfumes and aftershaves, all clashing with each other, and making me feel quite ill!
- Finally, one person holding a prize draw was sat on a stool, saying random things to a friend and holding out a sign with the competition on. She was in the busiest part of the show, and in the 10-minutes that I was on the adjoining Nikon stand, she didn’t get one person go anywhere near her.
I had some fun looking at things, and the people that stood out were the ones that took interest, so people like Moo were fantastic. I hung around while they talked to people who had never heard of them, and they were as friendly and accommodating as they were when they spoke to existing good customers like me! The really busy stands (Nikon, Canon and Adobe) were the ones where they were engaging with their customers. Giving presentations, talking to people, asking questions – making visitors feel valued and giving back to the visitors.
The nice bit is that I came away from the show feeling that we are doing the right thing at Scholastic. At BETT, I banned Blackberry’s and mobiles from stand staff. We did engage and talk to people. We didn’t sit down (I have banned stools for years), and we handed magazines out rather than reading them.
You can guarantee one thing though – the stands that were quiet will go away from the show saying that it wasn’t worth the effort and they won’t do the show again next year. They will blame the organisers for not getting the right number, or correct quality of people in to the show. So I say to all people on quiet stands – if you are quiet, why? Can you absolve yourself from blame fully before going and blaming the organisers?