After first talking to New Scientist Live’s Mike Sherrard following the show announcement in January, EN caught up with the director on the first day of the show opening, to see the magazine being brought to life.
So, how’s it going so far?
In over 30 years of running exhibitions I have never had such a great first day, that sounds like hyperbole but it’s actually true. A lot of the attraction on the first day was British astronaut Tim Peake, who is an absolutely extraordinary human being. He had time for everyone, whether they were six or 60. He was a real star attraction.
He’s inspiring the next generation of UK astronauts.
Speaking of the next generation, the show seems really popular with school children.
We didn’t target schools, our event didn’t set out to cater for school children; we set out to talk about science, technology and innovation. It just so happens that this generation of school kids are massively interested. What you’re not seeing here is schoolchildren screaming and running around; they’re actually asking intelligent questions. The show is aimed at the curiously minded; we haven’t dumbed anything down.
What kind of demographic were you aiming for?
If you look at the New Scientist demographic, as a brand we have a 5.2m reach. That goes from proper scientists right down to people who just have a curiosity about the world that they live in. This is the place they can come to get their questions answered. It’ll even answer questions you didn’t know you wanted the answers to.
And the people answering the questions are hugely respected scientists?
The speakers are of the highest quality. New Scientist is 60 years old this November, and it’s got a very established and loyal following in terms of its readership. That means we have access to Novel Prize winners. They are known by, and are great friends of, New Scientist. It’s a massive advantage for us.
We could’ve doubled the amount of speakers, from the interest we had. So we got to pick and choose and select the topics we wanted to present.
Was it important for the exhibitors to provide interactive or immersive experiences?
We certainly encouraged that, mainly because we thought if exhibitors just stand and hand out leaflet then people won’t be that interested. People are coming here to ask questions, people are coming here because they’re curious. We want to help them satisfy their curiosity.
There are so many stands doing things.
Look at the Royal Academy of Engineering. This is a body of engineers who’ve put on a superhero stand, and thought long and hard about why they should do that and why they were doing that. What they’re saying is that these superheroes are people who use super powers, but actually the technology exists and those super powers could be a reality.
The exhibition industry in general needs to keep reinventing itself. You can’t just stand there handing out a leaflet – people have moved on from that.