A day as a World Travel Market stand judge

07 November 2011

If you had told me I would learn about “hookers” and “sorting goats from the sheep” during my day as a World Travel Market (WTM) judge I would not have believed you. However I learnt a lot about the exhibition trade from my fellow judges yesterday who were far more experienced than I, on the ins and outs of designing and running an exhibition stand.
 
Hookers are apparently people who are trained to “hook” passers by and engage them to take a closer look at the stand. Sorting goats from the sheep is all about quickly understanding which visitors are of potential value to your company and can give you business and then moving on to identify their needs. Of course much of the hard work has to happen in the months and weeks before the show setting up appointments with key target customers and it was evident that many of the special meeting rooms on he stands were full of people having their pre-planned meetings.
 
The exhibition trade has few barriers to entry and it’s clear that WTM has plenty of rivals in this industry. In many ways I learnt that the trade can be incredibly innovative but in others the exhibition trade lacks transparency and needs to lobby harder to demonstrate the huge economic value that it brings to its host country.
 
There were a total of five of us judging the stands yesterday and most of us had not done the job before. The panel consisted of Bill Richards of Tram Research, Carla Heath from Whippet, Nadia Cameron from Exhibition News and Shannon Moore from Reed Exhibitions and myself. We were well briefed by Sawan from WTM and set about our task and split into two teams to tackle each hall. It was hard work trying to visit each stand in the time we had available and we did not finish on time as we wanted to make sure we debated the winners so that we were all happy with the final result.
 
There are a total of 6 award categories this year as follows:
Best stand design
Best stand for doing business
Best stand personnel
Best stand feature
Most innovative stand within the technology region
Best stand for interacting with travel agents
 
One of the most difficult stands to pick was the technology one as we wanted to recognise the innovative nature of the technology aswell as the stand and the overall welcome and experience on the stand. We have commended a second stand given the difficulties that we faced on making a decision. Some of the things we were looking for were:
 
- the type of welcome we received when we expressed an interest in the stand
- whether the messaging was very clear on the stand
- how well the stand reflected the brand of its owner and overall objectives
 (whether that was to launch a new product or service or create new leads)
- how well trained and knowledgeable the staff were and engaged with show visitors  
 (e.g. not using their phone or PC at the stand for their own use)
- how open the stand was so that it was welcoming to visitors
- the overall experience when visiting the staff
- the overall aesthetic appeal of the stand.
 
We were particularly impressed with those stands which gave visitors the options of downloading electronic brochures using QRcodes.
 
We especially liked the Slovenian green dragon who unknowlingly gave one of our judges a quick massage.
 
We also loved how many of the stands had demonstrations or features on their stands to bring their cultural characteristics to life such as the chocolate making on the Belgium stand, the felt making on the Khazikstan stand, the fish display on the Portugal stand, the display of handicrafts at the Brazil coffee stand, the woodcarvers on the Slovakian stand, the henna painting on the Saudi Arabian and Indian stands, the falconry, the smaller scale pearl fishing on the Ras El Khaimah stand and the very engaging demonstration of handicrafts and culture on the Fiji stand. I was also particularly impressed with the friendly welcome we received on the Thai airways stand.
 We were also particularly impressed with some of the small stands which had put a lot of work into making them very distinctive and characterful.
 
All in all it was a tough call to decide on the final winners. After a quick lunch we did a second tour of the halls to determine our final list and we stretched the patience of the WTM by taking an extra hour to agree the list. We hope you like our selection which will be announced later today and don’t forget that there is also the people’s choice of stand aswell and a poll which will be running on Facebook so visitors have the chance to vote awell. Well done to all those who won the prizes and may they bring you more well deserved attention and visitors.
 
At the end of the day I returned to my hotel with a pair of very sore feet and found some guests having their feet massaged by the foot massagers. I decided to try them later on and would highly recommend these Novotel foot restorers. Don’t forget to try them out if you are staying there. Next time I’ll heed my own advice to wear more comfortable, flatter shoes! 
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