Last Word with Phil Soar

The industry legend talks exhibition venues, EN Awards, Virginia tobacco and buying Nottingham Forest.

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


The tyranny of the margins. Because exhibition groups make such good margins, the Darwinian pressure to provide better events, experiences and information for our customers, clients and delegates is too often lacking.

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

 

- Stop organisers complaining that we need more venues. We don’t.
- Reform ownership systems which mitigate against employees becoming serious shareholders in the companies they work for.
- Create a really powerful, integrated trade body which is well funded enough to argue convincingly for a bigger percentage of marketing/advertising budgets to be spent on events.

How did you get into this industry?

 

I was headhunted to join Blenheim after I had set up magazine businesses in France, Italy, Germany and Japan.

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

 

Lawrie Lewis.

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

 

The Zermatterhof Hotel in Zermatt after a day of clear blue skies skiing. Fendant – a Swiss white wine.

Phil-Soar-NEW-resized.jpg

Proudest moment (in and outside the industry)?

 

Inside, CloserStill winning seven of the 10 awards which a trade show organiser could win at the 2014 Awards. One should never say never, but that must be a one-off. Outside, probably buying Nottingham Forest.

Team you support and why?

 

See above – taken to see them first when I was six by my father and grandfather. Birmingham won 2-0. I left thinking we had won 3-1. On the council estates of Nottingham there wasn’t any other team you thought about supporting.

Most embarrassing song you own?

 

Somewhere in the Night by Barry Manilow.

Biggest weakness?

 

Not brave enough.

Most prized possession?

 

A complete set of medals from every Olympics.

What’s your karaoke song of choice?

 

Je ne regrette rien – I spent four years in Tokyo having to sing it (and several others). Being in French, I could stumble over the words.

Strangest request you’ve had in the industry/strangest incident you have seen at an exhibition?

 

We opened the very first DSEi at Excel on 11 September 2001. By 1pm we had 15,000 people in the hall. By 4pm it was literally empty.

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

 

“And I suppose you’re going to tell us that the quantity was down but that the quality was definitely up?” – Steve Monnington negotiating for a business where visitor numbers were falling.

Tell us something we don’t know about you?

 

I won the Japanese Magazine of the Year Award in 1991, with Great Artists.

Worst item of clothing you own?

 

It’s impossible to even work out how to answer this one.

Favourite place to go at the weekend?

 

Rugby with my son Alex

Finally, in all your working life, what is the Worst job you’ve had?

 

Without doubt, it was when I worked at Players’ on the rumbling machines – unloading sacks of raw Virginia tobacco into shredders. It was an hideous experience. I am certain that no one would ever smoke if they had to work there. I have never been tempted to have even a single puff of a cigarette.

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