Last Word with Murray Ellis

The chief officer of Boat Shows at British Marine Boat Shows on keynote speaker Debra Searle MVO MBE, the inflexibility of venue service costs, and a Jack Daniels on the rocks.

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What is the biggest topic that needs addressing in the industry?


The lack of sizeable, quality exhibition space in London. I can think of only one built in the last 30 years – yet this is one of the world’s leading capital cities. Of course, space is always a premium when you start talking about boats!

What are the three things you would change in the industry?


1. Inflexibility of venue service costs.
2. Investment in customer service training.
3. The perception held by visitors and exhibitors that some of the decisions we take are to make their lives as difficult as possible.

Which speaker has most impressed you at an exhibition?


We once had motivational keynote speaker Debra Searle MVO MBE speak at the London Boat Show and she was fantastic, with a truly inspirational story to tell. She has been awarded a First Class Honours degree, launched three companies, won World Championship medals for Great Britain, had two books published and became the youngest ever trustee of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Her story focused on her successful solo attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean after her husband – a top-level club oarsman – left the boat after developing an incontrollable fear of the ocean.

Which member of the industry is least likely to get a round in first?


Dave Rogers of esp events.

Where is the best place for a nightcap and what would it be?


It would be a Jack Daniels on the rocks at either the Sir Harry’s Bar in the Waldorf Hotel, New York or at Mango’s Tropical Café, Miami Beach.

What’s the worst idea you have seen at an exhibition?


I would like to think there’s no such thing as a bad idea, but an organiser will always know when they’ve got something wrong.

Favourite restaurant – best dish?


One of my favourite restaurants is Corrigans in Mayfair. I can happily recommend anything on the menu.

Most prized possession?


My golf clubs.

What’s your karaoke song of choice?


Maggie May – Rod Stewart.

What one thing do you do better than anyone else?


Planning and communicating to bring together more than 50 contractors, 600 exhibitors, hundreds of boats on a purpose-built marina in just 15 days to stage the Southampton Boat Show.

Biggest weakness?


Anyone that knows me will know that I’m very organised, which can be seen as both a strength and a weakness.

Proudest moment?


In the industry, it would be successfully moving the London Boat Show to ExCeL London in 2004. We had outgrown the space at Earls Court, which is a nice problem to have in the events industry. Outside the industry, my proudest achievement would be getting married and seeing my two sons grow up to be fantastic young men.

Team you support and why?


I’m a born and bred Southampton supporter.

What’s the best putdown you’ve heard in the industry?


When visiting an exhibition a few years ago, I overheard a disagreement with the head of the event and one of the stand builders, with neither budging. The line was: ‘If I agreed with you we’d both be wrong’ – which seemed to break the ice a bit.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.


I once took an urgent call to prepare a loo for the King of Jordan’s wife who had come to visit the Southampton Show.

Worst item of clothing you own?


None, it would be in the bin.

Most embarrassing song you own?


I’ll admit to owning an album called Crocodile Shoes by Jimmy Nail. Don’t ask me why.

Favourite place to go at the weekend?


My golf club.

Worst experience you’ve had in the workplace?


When I was 16, I had a temp job washing up in a busy restaurant. I soon realised that I didn’t want to be working while everyone else was having a good time.

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