Friday, March 29, 2019

BaselWorld 2019 - Pro Tips for a Better Fair in 2020

So another BaselWorld is in the books.  And I have to be honest, it was wicked strange.  

The most obvious point being SWATCH group's absence.  And the word around the campfire is that they are not likely planning a return.  But in fairness, it was more than just SWATCH taking a pass that spiked the fair this year.   A lot of brands, and a lot of the services contracted by the fair and the brands, quite simply, shit the bed.  So gentle reader, I will provide some "pro tips" to provide some ideas for improvement next time:

1.  You need to be "findable".  Quite simply, the fair was laid out with all of the precision of a drunken cow wandering the halls with a GPS device.  I'm sorry, but I'm calling this one like I (and many people) see it.  The big brands were fine (but let's be honest, that was a particularly small number).  Several of the mid-level brands required a compass and Michelin road map to find.  And God help you if you were trying to find a brand in the misplaced "Incubator", because not even GPS could help you locate it.  

Here's a crazy idea - put up some fucking signage!  You know, something subtle like:

This way to the Incubator!   

You know, like the signs you used throughout Hall 1 to direct people to Les Ateliers and other sections.  Seeing as these brands paid good money to the fair organizers to, essentially, have a table in an environment not dissimilar to the waiting area of a Grey Hound bus station (circa 1978), the least you could do is make sure people know how to find them.

2.  You Can't Email a Handshake (That bon mot courtesy of Rod Hess).  I appreciate that I am clearly now a member of the older generation.  While 50 might be the new 40, I accept and appreciate that we are now at a point where we need to hear more from the new and emerging folks out there.  We need new blood, and they (and my fellow old farts) need to be communicated with better.  A poorly written, jacked-up email blast does not help the brands or the fair.  In fact, it actually hurts them.

So a few pro tips within a pro tip:

Shamelessly borrowed from the worldwide infoweb

     A.  If you are claiming that your staff are fluent in English (and charging usurious rates based on this), then it would be reasonable to assume that they are.  Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case.  Either send your "faux-fluent" folks to Berlitz, or (and I know that this is an absolutely INSANE idea because, you know, it makes sense and is cost effective) HIRE a native speaker in each of your target languages to proofread and edit your press releases before they get sent out.  It will cost you less than you spend on lunch for your team during the fair.

     B.  What's in a name?  Well, I have been called many names in the halls of BaselWorld, some of them are even close to my given one!  But when I get an email that starts:

Dear ____  _____, 

I tend to next look for a message from a former "Most Excellent Foreign Prime Minister" of country X who wants to entrust me with his fortune.  

Automation is great.  But what happened this year was an endless cycle of broken communication that you could not even unsubscribe from.  Add to this a "book your appointment now" function that was, well, dysfunctional.  Actually, that's not really fair.  Dysfunctional leads you to believe that things weren't great, but worked to some extent.  And if we are being honest, these auto-schedulers were about as useful as a band aid on a gun shot wound.  I was in one booth apologizing for the fact that I had been unable to schedule an appointment and saw a stream of four different journalists come in for their "scheduled" appointments, all at 3 o'clock.  The result?  Five journalists ended up not having an appointment.

     C.  Just like the Junior Prom, you might not want to wait until the week before BaselWorld to send out your invitations for appointments.

3.  Charge a reasonable amount for what you are offering.  It is actually really simple math.  You can have a lot of empty space because brands can't or won't pay for it, or you can punch your weight and charge a realistic rate and have full halls.  Because here's a little truth cocktail that might be tough to swallow - there were probably more brands displaying "off campus" than in the main sections of Hall 1.

In fairness to the new management team, you can't really blame them.  Most of this was put in motion by their predecessors.  And contrary to popular belief, I actually REALLY LOVE BaselWorld and I really want to see it succeed.  So some tough lessons, but let's hope that 2020 marks a real comeback! 


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