Saturday, April 24, 2010

Speed Dating at LBF 2010

As the dust settles from the skies over the UK, we should take a step back from the London Book Fair and ask whether the absence of travellers was an opportunity missed, or whether an opportunity to change? Today we read that their will be a bigger and better BEA as a result but is this what the industry needs?

A 30% reduction in attendance was is significant. However, here was more time to spend with people, loads of empty stands to squat and arranging ad hoc meetings in. There was less rushing between stands every the half hour, like speed daters responding to the bell and forced into playing musical chairs. There was time to spend with people who needed the time, or with friends you barely have time to say hello to. This was certainly the most social and relaxed of Book Fairs.

The question at the close of play was whether the cost in money and time was worth the effort. Whether the ‘speed dating’ fair is past its sell buy? Whether its time to change? Not only had the dust hardly settled and we were receiving invites to other industry conferences, details of other events and were left wondering how many social fixes it takes to do business?

Although many exhibitors still did good business at LBF 2010, many of those who relied heavily on overseas traders didn’t. There was a shark contrast between certain sectors with some stands merely being occupied. Monday looked like a Wednesday and Wednesday we didn’t even bother to go.

In recent years the conference programme has grown to busting point and now overflows. We may be wrong but feel that the conference or seminar programme is now disproportion to the event itself. At a time when there still is are digital this, that or the other seminars or conferences every month with the same faces often telling the same stories, why do the book fairs demand wall to wall of the same? Today we have video conferences, internet, email, social networks and yet we still want to travel to the show. Personally, I look at the colony model that Litopia is creating and see a viable and focused community that is genuinely developing and expanding and which is free of the bums on seats model of yesterday. They are not alone but frankly listening to a 20 minute presentation where half of it is an advert and all too often the other half says little is always time well spent.

On the Tuesday we met an author friend who was going to meet their agent and asked was that normal. The response was that the agent was ‘not busy’ and as they were is town it would be good to meet up. They had only met the week before. As the BT advert used to say, ‘It’s good to talk’.

So are Book Fairs about bodies through the door, bums on seats, contacts made, taking orders, creating new deals, attending seminars, seeing new offers, or social connections. Is speed dating the best way to meet the new partner?


Unknown said...

Thanks for reporting from LBF 2010!

Unknown said...

a "shark" contrast? not sure that was intentional, but nonetheless, it seems to fit.

Thanks very much for the report, by the way. It's appreciated.

Kat Meyer

postcode dating said...

@Kat Meyer, yes, it seems to fit.
Thanks for sharing.

Pinakin Tendulkar said...

Thank you, Martyn! Interesting view indeed.

Hypothetical question:- If book fairs were replaced by an online replica that includes all the core features and functions of a book fair - do you think those would be more productive? Online booths, online meetings, online exchanges, online handshake agreements... all assisted by charts, figures, live data, decision tools - just like a share trading portal; except that it will be open for 3 days a year. What do you think? :-)
(Not that I don't like traveling to London or Frankfurt - but its a shame that some dust was powerful enough to stop us all.)

Martyn Daniels said...

but the point is they all are hooked on speed dating and like bees they buzz from flower to flower ... but when it rains....

Unfortunately the will do business over the net but like to promenade down the aisle