John's Jottings

113. School for Exhibitionists - November 2015

Posted on November 1, 2015 at 5:50 AM

There was interest in the clubroom last week when a circular came round from the Regional Federation of Model Railway Clubs. It was a proposal for a conference dealing with the organisation of exhibitions.


“Every exhibition manager worth his salt knows how to stage a show. It’s so simple,” Paul commented, though he’s never actually been involved in running one himself in any capacity.


“There’s no need for any of us to attend,” Peter chimed in. And not for the first time, he gave us the benefit of his great wisdom – the insight only afforded to those who are completely ignorant of, and totally inexperienced in, the subject to hand.


“Will the Plonkton lot be telling us how we ought to do things?” Jim wondered sarcastically. “After all, they know they are perfect in every respect. We’ve only to follow their example to be similarly successful.”


“Before we dismiss it out of hand, let’s look at what the day might cover,” advised Bill with his usual pragmatism. “Remember the Nether Hamblins exhibition team went on the ‘Grow Your Audience’ training day put on by the Regional Board for Promoting the Arts. And their attendances went up, didn’t they?” So we looked more closely at the suggested topics.


“Is there more to choosing a venue than finding somewhere of the right size that’s relatively cheap?” Adrian wondered. But then consideration has to be given to unloading, sizes of access doors, parking, proximity to public transport, and the availability of kitchen facilities.


Catering and food hygiene regulations were topics where most of us felt ill-informed. Though were we quite sure we weren’t going to poison the visitors to our show. But if a local authority inspector should turn up, would he agree? And what if he didn’t?


We didn’t think we needed to bother with the Criminal Records Bureau and the Vetting and Barring Scheme for the protection of vulnerable adults and children. But again, we didn’t know for certain what might actually be required under statutory regulations.


And while in the regulatory frame of mind, exactly what is the law regarding public liability, risk assessment, minimisation and mitigation? How do current fire and electrical regulations apply to exhibitions? Some shows send round detailed forms to be completed and submitted, while others turn blind eyes to the most obvious of hazards.


Financial Planning and Budgeting seemed a particularly difficult aspect of exhibition management. “As long as you keep expenses to a minimum and charge enough at the door, you’ll be OK,” was Paul’s simple formula. But where does Price Elasticity come in?


“If you always go for cheap layouts, you won’t get good-enough layouts to draw in satisfied crowds year after year,” advised Ken. “And how do you calculate an admission price that large number of people will be willing to pay and yet covers the expenses?”


“And what are the most cost-effective forms of advertising to bring in those large numbers of people?” Jane asked. “We know what we do and the number of visitors it brings in. But if we did things differently, would we get an even larger audience?”


“There’s a lot more to putting on an exhibition than is immediately obvious,” the chairman observed. And we had to agree with him that it might be worth having someone there, if only to confirm that we’re working along the right lines.


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