Monday, 16 March 2009

So was it a success?

Thinking about the EBA conventions that I've attended from 2005 till March 2009, I can't help but compare what I thought were 'successful' vs 'unsuccessful' shows. But with my marketing hat on, what does define a successful show? Well, in reality it's whatever the show organisers say it should be.

Bear with my analogy here. If the guys who 'own' a show say, 'well we don't care about revenue or profit, all we care about is getting bums on seats and we set our baseline at 300 visitors' - and they count the tickets sold at the door and they hit 350 tickets sold, then it would almost be fair to say that they had a successful show.

Now the display may have been crap, the food abysmal and the customers completely dissatisfied - but if they weren't measuring any of that, how would anyone know? All the stats that would be released would be around the 350 tickets sold, right?

Like I said earlier, this is an analogy. I read in the local paper that the Spanish Bonsai Association had 500 registered convention attendees for EBA, but whether any further success indicators will be released, I don't know. The tickets were being sold by the trade organiser Expoflor, so I imagine you wouldn't be able to numerically separate the people who came purely for bonsai as opposed to the bloke down the street who came to see some cut flowers because he had nothing better to do with his 3 Euros on the day.

And if I asked myself, was it a success - well, I caught up with European bonsai buddies who I only get to see perhaps twice a year at most. The cafe con leche was fantastic, the lunches at 12 Euros were way beyond decent, but the breakfasts (included in the convention package) were average at best - unless you like toast, which I don't. Demonstrations by the big names are of minimal interest to me, although I do like checking out the finished product. The suiseki display is always superb at an EBA show. The smaller demos/presentations were a welcome change. The lack of Spanish potters was a keen disappointment to me, and the prices of trees were higher that what I expected - although the locals thought it was all a fair deal. The display infrastructure was the best I have seen to date, but I will admit that the gamut of the bonsai displays did run from the ridiculous to the sublime. However, 238 individual bonsai displays is really not bad at all. Most clubs would struggle to find enough space to show the half of that. So on the whole I would say, yes it was a success.

A bonsai aficionado who walks into a display hall will inevitably think of the cost involved in setting up the show. Whether it's a 'wow how did they manage to do that' vs a 'WTF did I really give them money to see this'. The display infrastructure of the Lorca show was probably the single biggest contributor to the success of the show - i.e. if the trees are good but the display structure is bad, then the trees will suffer for it. If the trees are mediocre but the display structure is stonking, then the trees are enhanced by it. And at Lorca, the carpets, lighting and backdrops were WAY stonking. That infrastructure was underwritten by local government and the trade council, but a lot of the manpower behind the show was still provided by the local clubs.

Still, every bonsai person wishes show organisers well. We rejoice in their achievements, we commiserate in their disappointments. We feel for club members and the effort they put in to making their show a success. Whatever that success may be. Even if they have outdone the show we put up previously, we have room in our hearts to wish them well. At one time or another, we have all been in the same boat.

All that said, I would like to know (even as a mere convention visitor) that the organisers were cognisant of their expectations, that their objectives were clearly laid out and quantifiably tracked, and that some measure of customer satisfaction was taken into consideration. After all, how else would you be able to ensure the show next year would improve on this one, right?

Because you'll be wanting to take my money at the next show, and I definitely wouldn't want to spend my heard-earned dosh on something that's below my expectations, would I?

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