I had the fortunate task of visiting Farnborough International Air Show recently, and I have to say it blew my mind. Watching the Airbus A380 pretty much defy the laws of physics from the excellent vantage point of the hospitality tent was something I will never forget.
Later, when I interviewed show organiser Shaun Ormrod in the De Boer-built media centre, he revealed to me that this is the first year an exhibition industry professional has been placed in charge of putting the show together instead of someone like an ex-pilot, with a flight background.
Bringing his experience from the industry, he said he noticed several basic things that all the ex-pilots had missed.
The nuts-and-bolts changes included calculating the number of toilets based on expected visitor numbers, and building a dedicated bus dock to avoid traffic jams both human and vehicular.
Another change implemented by Ormrod, that I was frankly surprised hadn’t happened before was electronic registration. Believe it or not, Farnborough Air show has, until this year, used a paper ticketing system for its thousands of visitors.
This means 2010 will be the first edition of the show that will return specific visitor numbers and demographics. Using software from D2i systems, the new method hugely reduced waiting times at the gates and will undoubtedly yield important data, especially over the course of several shows.
This effectively demonstrates the importance of having an organiser with expertise specifically in the exhibition industry. While Farnborough is such a huge show that it’s inertia could only be increased by an exhibition expert, smaller or newer exhibitions could live or die based on the experience of their head organiser.