After a whirlwind of a week in Farnborough, time for some reflection.
Setting the Stage
Before saying farewell to Farnborough, it is worth reflecting upon our experience. We arrived on Sunday 15th July having had a lazy start to the day – it was our 40th wedding anniversary after all!
Following the signs to the show and then to our car park was very easy and we parked with no fuss as security seemed very ‘laid back’. We then faced a trek through Halls 1 and 2 to reach our Hall 3. The first two halls were pleasantly air-conditioned, so our hall came as rather a shock – it was hot!
We found our stand with the furniture piled up and covered with plastic. The bespoke barstool we had ordered held a paint pot and roller of white paint sitting on it which was a bit curious. We also found that the lockable cupboard had no key and the bar unit had an orange top instead of a red one. Finally, the LED screen had not been mounted on the wall.
Fixing the Faults
I headed off to the GES desk while Paul set about unwrapping the furniture. The lady at the GES desk was most helpful and within minutes people appeared to solve our problems. The LED screen was mounted on the wall, a key was discovered for the cupboard leaving only the colour of the bar to correct. Eventually, a gentleman turned up with a sticky vinyl covering and expertly hid the awful orange and turned it tomato red – perfect. Next, we had to get the items we had bought from our car to our stand – not so easy as it would appear.
Our car was some way away from the hall and it was full of things that needed to go on the stand. We saw vans, cars and golf buggies delivering people and items to the back entrance of our hall, so we set out to drive our car along the same route.
The people controlling access to the roads were all volunteers. We had been told by ‘someone in authority’ to just drive up behind the hall. Some volunteers let us through but eventually, we were stopped. The two volunteers said we had to get a permit from Gate I. We set off in search of this gate.
After a while and getting further and further from the halls, we came across a group of Portacabins. A volunteer in there pointed us to another cabin sitting by itself in a near-deserted field. This was where we were finally given permission to drive behind our hall and park for one hour while we unloaded our things. We were on our way.
Our stand finally set up and the air-conditioning functioning we were ready for the week. The first day proved to be an eye-opener as I had never realised the appeal of a free pen. We had mistakenly only bought 500 TTLG pens with us. By the end of day one we had given away about a third, and more experienced stand holders were advising us to only put three out at a time as no-one likes to take the last pen. This proved to be wrong, as not only did people happily take the last pen they then tried to remove the SkyChess branded mug they were being held in!
In the end, we gave away 4 kilos of chocolates, 500 pens, 400 mouse pads about 200 bookmarks and 50 USB keys (I kept those hidden). I will say that people were unerringly polite and cheerful, and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
We were very fortunate to have peaked the interest of a few ‘VIPs’. Professor Rigas Doganis paid us a visit shortly followed by the Minister for Aviation of Nigeria and his entourage. Turned out that the Minister had been a former student of Paul’s.
The Vice President of Marketing for the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation dropped by (an old friend) and finally, we were interviewed by Alan Peaford with his camera crew from FINN.
Not bad for a husband and wife team from Lincolnshire! We also met up with old friends from Paul’s Airbus days and made several new contacts which made the 5-day event quite memorable.
We discovered by chance that a host of courtesy cars were available to any of the stand-holders during the day. This meant that we could ask for a car to pick us up from the car park every morning and return us to our car every evening. On the final day, they transported all our remaining items down to our car thereby avoiding the saga of Gate I once again. This information we only came across by accident half-way through the show – as usual, communication is often a weak point in such events.
Take your own supply of drinking water as the prices at the show are horrendous. Keep a record of useful numbers in your phone in case you need to contact the organisers quickly. The stands are cleaned regularly by a brigade of cheerful workers and people from GES come around to make sure everything is as it should be.
In the end, we were very pleased with our Farnborough experience. We made new business contacts, became friendly with nearby stand holders and enjoyed talking to the many visitors who showed an interest in our business and in us.
The entire support crew that enabled Farnborough to exist were wonderful. They often worked in difficult conditions due to the heat. I watched several suntans flourish over the week.
We may never repeat the experiment, but we were certainly glad that we had gone through it.