September 24, 2015
It’s one of the top events in the events industry calendar. Yesterday and today, hundreds of people will descend on Old Billingsgate for the Square Meal Venues & Events Live exhibition, where acts, venues, suppliers and caterers all seek to showcase why you should pick them for your event. But what actually goes on at this wonderful venue on the Southbank?
Featuring over 250 venues and events suppliers, it’s still surprising to walk up to Old Billingsgate and take in the impressive signage that adorns each and every wall. After dropping off your things at the cloakroom to the right, it’s time to pick up your lanyard, Luxey lucky dip entry and zipped red bag and head on into the Vaults.
It must be difficult to showcase in this area, particularly if various events industry professionals are focused on picking up their free breakfast and lunch before heading to chat to fellow delegates. Even so, there are some wonderful stands here; creating your own tote bag is going down a storm with a number of people whilst Lick Me, I’m Delicious (best company name ever?) astound us with their chocolates and other tasty morsels, some of which can be branded with your company logo.
After our continental breakfast of fruit salad and croissants provided by Sandwich Man, we moved back into the exhibition hall to be greeted by row upon row of exciting venues, some of whom we work with already (Searcy’s The Gherkin, QEII and Hedsor House to name but three) but also many others to whom we felt compelled to chat. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have their photo taken as they attempt to head through Platform 9 ¾ at the Making of Harry Potter stand?
As we walk round, we begin to ponder exactly what makes us stop at some stands and walk past others. Using our extremely scientific method of how we’re behaving and watching other guests, both popular and unpopular, it becomes clear quickly that freebies are a must. A brownie, a cookie, some Marcus Wareing peanut brittle (provided by the man himself, no less) – food is always a clever way to encourage people to stop at your stand. Events folk are also drawn to the less perishable items; Elite Hotels deserve a shout-out for their stress rugby ball (a great idea considering the Rugby World Cup is in full swing), the Wellcome Trust offer a White Blood Cell soft toy (cuter than you’d think) and The British Museum provided us with a rubber duck. Dressed as an Ancient Egyptian. In a plastic ball. Which was actually strawberry lip balm. Amazing.
Moving on from the freebies though, the exhibitors were all wonderfully informed and engaging, ‘zapping’ your name badge in order to gain your details – no more writing down names with a pen and paper! Booklets and business cards are still the usual form of material to take away but it seems just leaving your details isn’t enough these days; a lot of stands encouraged leaving a business card in order to enter competitions, the most frequent being a bottle of champagne. Well go on then, if you insist...
Away from the stands, the seminars are another draw of Venues and Events Live (nicely whittled down to #ve15 for social media), with top chef Tom Kerridge being the most popular draw. For us though, we decided to check out the extremely informative Social Media Tips and Trends talk by Square Meal’s very own Ed Butcher. You need to start thinking about video and LinkedIn is kinda sorta useless. So there you go!
After many hours of chatting to exhibitors, having our silhouette done and watching a pickpocket at work (all legal), it was time for us to depart Old Billingsgate and head home, content with our day’s haul – not just of freebies but of exciting new business contacts as well. If anyone is thinking of going but isn’t sure then rush down there today if possible! If not, there’s always next year when you might just bump into a few folks from Sternberg Clarke. Many thanks to Square Meal Venues and Events for such a brilliant exhibition and we look forward to 2016!
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By Henry Fosdike