Last week I was travelling through London with my daughter and we passed by one of the many buskers that liven up the tube network, who was straining out an unmemorable tune.
She stopped and dropped some change in the hat, which prompted the following chat:
‘I’ve noticed you do that a lot, don’t you?’ I asked.
‘Always, actually...if I have change’ she said.
‘That’s very good of you.’
‘Not really…I think it’s a fair deal’
‘I like the buskers, even if they’re rubbish, they catch my attention, maybe put a tune in my head for the day, break up the journey; anyway they make me smile... easily 50p’s worth of entertainment... sometimes I’ll treat them to a whole pound!’
‘Yeah...I get that.’
‘Anyway, if people don’t pay them, then there wouldn’t be any buskers and the tube wouldn’t be the same, would it?’
‘No, it wouldn’t. I get that too.’
So there we all are enjoying the benefits of the buskers, we wouldn’t want them to disappear but the vast majority of us do nothing to support them. Does that sound like any event that you might have run either now or in the past?
Exhibitions are the cornerstones of communities; they help to grow the industry they serve, are a vital cog in the wheel of any vertical market and yet they are only ever supported by a fraction of the businesses or people that derive benefit from them. Everybody would suffer if the event disappeared. In theory, everybody in a single industry should automatically and unquestionably support their relevant exhibitions.
Unfortunately, that is not the norm; as we know from the childhood story, The Little Red Hen - the little red hen makes the bread and nobody wants to help her but then everyone wants to eat it.
In a similar fashion, exhibitions generally produce a beautiful, aromatic hot loaf of bread for all the takers who often come and feast without even a thought that they should do something to support the making of future loaves, let alone this one. Is it time for us to make a stand (if you pardon the poor pun) against this freeloading?
For as long as I can remember, potential exhibitors have used the line ‘we’ll come and have a look this year’.
A look at what? A hall full of people? How will that help them judge the quality of the audience and anyway, do we really want these people as visitors?
Obviously it is important to host prospective clients in the right way but many will be using your show without ever having intention of contributing to it.
Yes, an exhibition should be a gathering of the community but everybody in that community should help build that, otherwise the takers just feed off the exertions of the honest workers.
Exhibition organisers and exhibitors alike want buyers to visit the exhibition not sellers. The latter are just parasites and we should strive to make them obsolete. It is interesting to see the recent demise of many a design and build company.
This is the result of natural selection, the ones who didn’t get it have come a cropper.
Is it time to start really enforcing an entrance fee for anybody that does not fit the buyer profile? Exhibitions are a potent force; organisers spend fortunes on building this unique marketing force and it is also very unfair on the exhibitors that get it – why should they be helping to fund those that don’t?
So next time you walk past a busker, remember that everyone else is paying for whatever enjoyment you derive...by the way, I’m a convert now!
This article was first published in the December issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne