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a blog by Chris Barrow

Showcase riff

It's getting increasingly difficult for those of us outside of London and the South East to justify the inconvenience and expense of attending trade shows inside the M25, whether at London Excel or closer in to town.

Notwithstanding the wonder of The Elizabeth Line (and a good job too - as the DLR was closed on Saturday), it's still a royal PIA and damned expensive to be in the capital.

I'm sure there will be lots of glowing reports about attendance and cleverly angled photos showing happy crowds. The fact is that on both Friday and Saturday afternoons, members of the trade that I spoke to weren't at all happy at the extortionate investments they had made and the low turnout of visitors.

When the trade are alleviating the boredom on Saturday afternoon by bowling stress balls down the aisles at each other (and not hitting any visitors), when some top flight speakers are addressing audiences of less than 20 people in theatres set out for many more, you know there is an issue.

It was quite a few years ago now that Simon Tucker invited me to speak at the BDIA conference.

I asked if it was OK to deliver a rocket on their need to modernise. "Go ahead" he advised, "that's what we need."

So I did a typical Chris Barrow "no holds barred" presentation, pointing out the fate of the dinosaurs but also making some serious suggestions as to how the show could move with the times.

I was effectively "cancelled " after that, as too many noses were put out, but I was just doing the job I had been asked to do and actually trying to help.

Since then, of course, The Dentistry Show and BDA Conference have, at the very least, achieved level pegging and it will be interesting to see if the "Steven Bartlett maneuver" brings in the crowds to the NEC in May (and after last year's issues - was it a train strike?).

Highlights of my two days at BDIA:

  • The Thursday night check in at the Crowne Plaza - I asked the receptionist how many guests she had checked in so far on her shift (answer about 60) and complimented her on the experience;

  • Chatting to Bob Khanna over a bagel on Friday afternoon and learning about his emerging presence as a main platform speaker at GP and healthcare conferences around the world;

  • The Business Confidence Forum on Friday afternoon - just great to catch up with the panelists;

  • Dinner at Bonnane Pizzeria (just opposite the Crowne Plaza) on Friday night with Annie and Mark Topley - the restaurant has very few covers and so we were lucky to get a table but the food, wine, ambience and service were excellent;

  • My run on Saturday morning - bright sunshine, cold, crisp air and a great view of the Thames Barrier;

  • Getting to play with the iTero Lumina;

  • Listening to Cat Edney explain Air Flow;

  • As always - just catching up with numerous friends.

Commercial justification for going - zero.

Social justification for going - 100%.

A tax-deductible road trip with Annie (who was co-hosting the Bridge2Aid stand with Shaenna and Ian) - 100%.

Still bloody expensive though.

I'll see you at the NEC in May.


(p.s. We did have a good laugh with some of the older exhibitors - it's 28 years since my first Showcase - reminiscing about how we used to go out on the lash on Thursday AND Friday night and then be hanging on Saturday - those were the days. This time even after dinner we were in bed at 21:00 on Friday)

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