20 November 1998





What they expect

The standholder

A site which through the use of flashing lights, polished tyres, large screen TV and acres of deep-pile carpet totally eclipses the efforts of all competition. A cosy, quiet meeting room where transactions can be finalised over a chilled glass of the finest white wine accompanied by liberal helpings of freshly made vol-au-vents, crustless, quartered sandwiches and stuffed olives. A team of attractively dressed attendants.

The company representative

Visits from farmers anxious to shell out liberal amounts of cash to purchase the latest technology. No price quibbles, orders placed in plenty of time, and no question of a trade in machine. The fulfilment of several promised orders and the prospect of several nights out on the town using company expenses.

The show visitor

A warm welcoming show, with easy to find company stands offering a plethora of special show offers. A chance to chat informally and at length with machinery manufacturers about specific problems currently being experienced at home with a 30 year old David Brown tractor. Reasonably priced food and a comfortable seat. A chance meeting with the local bank manager who is keen to tell me that interest rates have fallen, my account is now within agreed limits and he wants to arrange a lunch date to discuss further investment strategies.

What they would settle for

The standholder

An area in the centre of the hall large enough to display the new, extended machinery line-up. The ability to offer some light refreshments to loyal customers. Sufficient lighting to create a modern, busy arena and a team of attendants gleaned from the office secretarial corps. A liberal supply of glossy sales literature neatly stacked in child-proof containers and a few padded chairs placed strategically around the stand to encourage people to linger.

The company representative

A steady stream of farmers with just a few prepared to chat about something other than the poor prices, bad harvests and expensive machines. Conformation that several visitors may be prepared to purchase new machines next year – providing the price is right. One night out on the town in a quiet restaurant just off the Kings Road.

The show visitor

Not too many people in the aisles, an easy to use show guide and reasonably receptive companies. An opportunity not to get lost in Earls Court One and an ability to find feed and watering holes at regular and convenient intervals. Discover that everyone is circulating around the balcony stands in the same direction and the combined scent of cattle, pigs, sheep and general show atmosphere does not lead to a sore throat.

What they dread

The standholder

A site tucked away in poorly lit area of the hall which is largely populated by exhibiting cattle. Straw and even worst material finds its way onto the stand – more so than interested farmers. The one plug socket provided is incapable of powering more than a few low watt bulbs and these have to be switched off when the electric kettle is switched on. A delivery of wine has totally disappeared, theres no tea bags and a batch of leaflets specially commissioned for the show has the manufacturers name spelt incorrectly.

The company representative

Endless visits from leaflet grabbing children. A bus load of well oiled young farmers more interested in Londons social life than machinery. A visit from a string of irate customers who proceed to tell anyone who will listen just how terrible their machinery has performed, and one, just one, wonderful farmer who agreed to make a purchase – when he got home. Two lonely nights alone in the hotel with fish and chips for supper. No expense receipts required.

The show visitor

Utter confusion. Time spent turning corner after corner never seeming to get any closer to the stand which only looked to be a few yards away on a map purchased for no mean sum. A long queue for the hot dog stand and yet another unpleasant shock when asked to pay. Discover the one person needed to be seen has gone for lunch and, somewhere along the way, beige trousers have become stained with tyre blacking. The start of a mystery throat condition which will result in being confined to bed until Christmas.

Successes or failures, sweet dreams

or nightmares – when planning for

Smithfield there is the potential for

all scenarios, it seems…