You know it’s right, when it feels right

Sarah Stainer, BH Live’s conference and exhibitions manager at Bournemouth International Centre, on the ethos of ‘try before you buy’. For an exhibition organiser, the decision about where to place their event is all about creating a great platform for their exhibitors and an inspiring visitor experience that puts them in a mood to buy. Having worked in the event industry for more than 20 years, I’ve learned that for that, there’s no substitute for the personal familiarisation (fam) visit and talking face-to-face about how we can make their event a success. While a lot of our clients are returning after successful events, we meet a lot of our new clients at trade shows, connecting with organisers who we think will really benefit from bringing their event to one of our venues. But once we’ve made that first, positive connection, we need to make it personal. We invite them to come and take a look. Not just for a tour of the venues, but to get a real feel for how our destination will work for them and their visitors, and discover all the things we can do to transform the exhibitionspace into a busy and dynamic sales, networking and buying environment. Giving organisers the opportunity to test the entire exhibitor, visitor and destination experience for themselves is, for me, the most reliable way to win hearts and minds. It’s a bit like how students pick a university or when you are house hunting. The university’s facilities, testimonials, degree status and living costs all matter. But the moment you walk through the gates you’ll know if it’s right, or wrong. However great the brochure says it is, it’s only when you cross the threshold that the house you’re looking at feels like home. Fam trips allow clients the time to take it all in, including meets with hoteliers, restaurateurs and local attractions. They have the time to explain their needs so that they get the best possible exhibition package, which puts the venue in the ideal place to include a whole range of extras that will add value to that. For example, the sunrise yoga experience we created for the Royal College of Nursing is now part of our regular offer to clients as is the beach run that we took part in on World Kidney Day, along with a few early risers from the British and Dutch Transplantation Societies. I’ve also found that our first-hand experience in organising our own exhibitions gives us an edge – we really understand the pressure that organisers can feel. We’ve planned, sold, organised and operated our own wedding expos at Bournemouth International Centre and Bournemouth Pavilion for more than 20 years, so our teams know exactly what it’s like to run a live exhibition. Yes, we operate venues, but we also know from experience how to make good use of them too. With organisers working to long lead times, they need to feel confident that whatever we can do now, we can do just as well next year and the year after, if not better. They want their shows to be associated with a vibrant and growing business destination. Exhibitors pay good money for their stand and they want be sure it’s going to pay off, by attracting a good measure of high quality buyers, at each and every show. Visitors won’t come unless they’re sure it’s worth spending a day or more out of the office. It’s obviously going to take a few of us at least a day to get all that across to a new client, but it’s worth it. They’ll see the venue, be able to picture how it could look and meet the people who’ll handle the event.   This article was first published in the September issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
Sarah Stainer
Posted by Sarah Stainer
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