Opinion: The fun of the fair

Drinks: Drinks
Other: Opinion

So that’s that, then. The stands are gone, the visitors are back at their day (or night) jobs and probably even the worst hangovers have worn off by now. The first Imbibe show is over.

I’m not going to sit here telling you all how marvellous it was. Partly since, as editor of the magazine I could hardly be said to be impartial, but also since getting on for 5,000 of you made it along, you can draw your own conclusions.

Having been there for the whole two days, though, a couple of things struck me, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Firstly, it was great to see so many of you genuinely interested in learning. Admittedly, we put quite a bit of time and effort into giving you seminars, tastings etc that we thought would be of interest to you, rather than just regurgitating the same old crap that every other trade show does.

You might, for instance, have noticed that there was no ‘closure debate’ – an exercise in turgid nonsense that has been thrilling absolutely nobody at the London Wine Fair since the Mesolithic period.

Even so, it was gratifying to see so many of these events full to bursting, with people standing round the edges. On this evidence, Imbibe’s readers aren’t content with what they know – they are always looking to improve, and that’s great, since that’s been our ethos since we founded the magazine three and a half years ago. Good on ya!

It was particularly interesting (with my editor’s hat on) to see the hordes massing for the two ‘technology’ seminars about how to use the internet, websites, twitter etc to generate customer interest. I’m broadly clueless when it comes to this stuff, but rest assured we’ll be doing more of this in the magazine in the future since there’s clearly a demand for it.

Secondly, isn’t it time the wine guys got their fingers out and made more of an effort with their stands? I just don’t think turning up and plonking ten bottles on a counter top, then standing behind it with a face like a slapped arse cuts it any more. Their lack of energy, inclusiveness and originality was in stark contrast to that of the beer and spirit guys twenty metres away, who turned the back half of the hall into one big party.

And before wine guys write in complaining that they don’t have the budget of the distillers, I don’t think it’s a question of money – it’s about having a bit of imagination, and then putting in some effort to make those ideas come to fruition. In most things in life, you get out what you put in, and I think that’s true of trade fairs, too. Roll up with an ‘I wish I was somewhere else’ attitude, and visitors will tend to agree with you and give your stand a wide berth.

Plus, despite much talk of wine being more ‘inclusive’ these days, there was very much a ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude. I spoke to a number of pretty serious bar people all of whom said they felt intimidated by the wine side of the hall, and I don’t blame them, since I also spoke to a number of exhibitors who seemed proud of the fact that they had refused to pour samples for (bar) people who they didn’t feel were worthy of their product.

Forgive me, but I always thought that pouring samples was the whole point of attending drinks exhibitions. Nice attitude, fellahs. Stay like that and watch your sales tumble. Oh, and keep whingeing about how hard it is to find new listings, while you’re at it…

Talking of effort and attitude, I was surprised I didn’t see more sommeliers who I knew. This is your show guys. We put it together after listening to all your bellyaching about every other trade show or tasting that you go to. We had people there whose wines you wanted to taste, we set it in a place that’s easy for you to get to, and we stuffed it full of great features that you ought to want to go to.

There were visitors there from Wales, Scotland and the West Country. So if you didn’t make the effort to come from less than ten miles away, either you’re complacently arrogant and think you don’t need to taste and learn, or so hopelessly disorganised you can’t arrange a day or two off with six months notice.

I know, I know, there are always excuses, but you know what? Sometimes you just need to forget what’s short-term important and look at what’s long-term beneficial.

That’s what Imbibe 2010 was about: learning and improving both your offer and your business. If you missed it, you just passed up a gilt-edged chance to give your career and your balance sheet a big boost. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at the avalanche of positive tweets.

Still, the show will be back next year, just make sure that you’re there as well. Remember, we know where you live…

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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