Diary from the 2013 CX Roadshow
Thursday 21st February 2013
Avoiding Normison I sleep fitfully and wake at 3.30. The motorised blinds in the South Wharf Hilton roll up to reveal a city still in night. 60 emails later, with a cup of tea, I am into paperwork.
First is an email and a Facebook promotion for today, the Melbourne showing of CX Roadshow 2013. This takes about an hour, then I put together an SMS list so that everyone registered will get a phone message at 8.30am reminding them to come. I probably should have done these things yesterday, . the travel day from Adelaide and scheduled them to roll out today. But Jimmy, Steve and I were too shattered to do much.
Adelaide was brilliant, as was Perth before it. Last year we didn’t do well in either city, because we were new and people didn’t understand what we offered and because we ran up against major events – Womadelaide; and a long weekend of Supafest and more in Perth.
I went to Perth thrice in six months to promote the Roadshow, printed unique brochures and sweated because if we started our six city tour on a bummer, it would be hard to regain the vibe.
Roadshow belongs to the punters who come, and the twenty exhibitors who pay me to be there. Their money accounts for half my annual turnover, the other half is from CX Network – CX Magazine, CX-TV and our growing digital channels.
But Perth went off, the community there embraced the roadshow. ‘Hey, everybodies here’ we heard more than a few times, at our registration desk in the foyer of the Hyatt ballroom.
The Perth Hyatt events team are delightful – Carla Dalby and Renee Dawson. It appears the management at Perth have worked to keep teams together – the staff talk about this – and CX loves any workplace with continuity.
Grant Everleigh drove the ATS semi over, with four days to play with. It is normally a 2.5 day drive for one guy. ATS are our truckers, they have great equipment. Grant is in a new Kenworth 600 HP prime mover that is dedicated to Terry Turner, an ATS founder who suddenly left us several summer ago.
Phil Duncan is our man at ATS and nothing is a problem. Not knowing the concept of Roadshow, he signed on last year and copped all out random deliveries and movements. We had a dud venue choice in Sydney – not their fault, but we did not find anywhere else for that given day. It meant we had to break the semi into two eight tonners, again at Phil’s yard. He organised everything.
This year it was even smoother – the exhibitors all shipped their pallets to Phil, and he put a guy with a fork on to help us out. We had six loaders from Phil English’s Showcall Crewing, and had a stress free loadup.
Driving back over the Harbour Bridge, I had a start when I realised I had totally forgotten to collect Richard Cadena’s equipment from Chameleon – they had generously donated the gear. It was ready to go at their huge warehouse – which is just a stone throw from ATS!
I called Jimmy in his ute, and gave him the happy news. Our Friday afternoon peak hour busting trip was about to turn upside down. We had to go back across the city, and fast. I called Chameleon and ATS to make sure they would both still be there when we arrived. At ATS they were even so kind as to fire up a forklift to help us load the three roadcases.
To his enormous credit, Jimmy didn’t yell at me. I cost him an extra two hours, and ate into his Friday afternoon social rituals which almost always includes sunset drinks on the deck at Concourse.
(Jimmy liked the organiser office at Adelaide – and the coffee mahcine)
I get jetlag when I go to Perth. The three hour summer time difference is enough to put anyone out of order. We used a years worth of upgrade certificates (Jim and I are Platinum) so that the three of us could enjoy Business Class on Virgin Australia.
It is the best way to make this trip – the guy next to me from the USA was gobsmacked how good the service was. ‘In the US, I fly first on Delta from New York to LAX and they give me a cheeseburger!’
It was a great way to start the tour, and when we checked into the Hyatt it was just about time for some drinks at the bar with some of the exhibitors. $300 later, we walked uptown for dinner.
Then the unholy early start, which was easy since at 3am in Perth it is 6am back home – and I usually wake before then.
Last year we had our tradeshow in the Ballroom out the back, which was just OK but hard to find. This year and in future we were in the main ballroom, and it made a huge difference. Better vibe is important!
We’ve added some exhibitors. Last year we had 12 double stands, this year 10 double, and 10 single. A double is 6 x 3m, a single is 3 x 3m. We’ve gone from 24 singles to 30 singles, if you count that way. It filled that truck – the pack is now fairly critical, and we’re using the belly bins as well.
But the day started with the challenge of getting Grant’s truck down the narrow service road to the dock, which meant traffic wardens were needed to stop the early morning busses and taxis on Adelaide Terrace – in both directions. Lucky we had one traffic warden – me. The traffic got the general idea, and grant only took one re-go. It was tight.
The dock access is poor. There is one narrow entry other than the wide main dock, but that is not possible for a semi. So we had to unload down a narrow hall which slowed the pack at the end because you could only eyeball the next six cases.
We had nine loaders from EPS, and we got in and out on schedule. Here they are!
For some reason the 40 degree weather in Adelaide gave way to rain and 18 degrees in Melbourne. We checked into the South Wharf Hilton, and went our separate ways for a few hours before dinner.
At 5pm on the day before the show we shut the online registration, download the data, and print the visitor badges. We do that in Steve’s room, and Melbourne had a lot of registrations.
We found Cadena and had some pub food, then tried to sleep. It is always hard before show day.
The 3am start soon dissolved and before I knew it was 6am, time to go meet Bernard Fuster outside the Melbourne Convention Centre. Last year I’d gotten lost wandering the vast foyer trying to get down to the dock. This year Bernard took me there.
They had read our brief properly, and everything flowed OK. But once it hit 8am, Steve was under siege at registration because we had the Show Electrics Master Class starting at 8.30 and it was a full one.
It’s 250 paces from the truck to the show hall, via a goods lift, at Melbourne, so the cases were slow to appear. The exhibitors come in at 8.30, to find the floor marked up with their firm name on a piece of paper taped to the floor.
The first time we did Roadshow, no one at the venues understood what it was. When we sent them our brief, and our floor plan, they all uniformly called to see who our stand contractor was. ‘There isn’t one’, I said. ‘So what are these boxes on the floorplan?’ they would say.
‘Just relax, we bring EVERYTHING with us. We have no contractors. No electricians. No rigging. We are self contained’.
Now they get it, and they bring their event colleagues up for a look, to marvel at the ‘pop up tradeshow’ that goes in and out on the same day. It appears revolutionary to them. For us, it’s just rock and roll technology – cases, wheels and loaders. With ‘can-do’ attitude.
Jimmy tours two three phase distro’s (thanks to Jands for the loan) and a lot of AC cables. We use cable trays to get them out to the middle stands – mindful of the industry debate about the risk of cable trays as a trip hazard. We reason that as we are a ‘trade show’ for a trade that work with cables and trays, the risk is managed.
The exhibitors have it together. They understood the notion of no shell scheme booths, and most of them engineered a great display that is built well within the 3.5 hours before the show opens at midday. Some just put gear on the tables we supply, and have a couple of pull up signs.
What matters is that everyone is happy. We have enjoyed great camaraderie and had no whinges – because we’ve worked hard to make everything work well.
When I ran ENTECH I wasn’t happy with the dynamic. We sold some big expensive stands to some small firms who had no chance of a return on investment. They just wanted to advance their status with a big display, and of course that is what market forces are all about.
But at ENTECH there were always a small core of moaning, unhappy and downright gnarly exhibitors who resented that they HAD to be there because otherwise ‘everyone will talk about what is wrong with us’. One firm who sold colour gel were always negative and hostile, yet we felt we had to take their miserable money every time. On Roadshow we only have exhibitors with real expectations, and everyone is constrained within the small spaces and freight limits.
With cases rolling, Jimmy has marked the floor using his laser measure. The venue AV guy we hire is supposed to help run out power – not every venue got that part of the brief, so we’ve sometimes had to go find the guy.
In Melbourne Leo was on the ball, and the power hookup went smoothly. Richard Cadena started his Show Electrics Master Class at 8.30am, luckily he didn’t need his gear for the first hour, because it was somewhere in the procession of 180 cases snaking up from the dungeon.
I’m running about making sure the loaders get breakout room cases to the rooms, and every venue is different. So it can be confusing. Most rooms start at 10am, but my Stage Safety Summit opens at 9.30.
Steve relies on a venue staffer helping to register people on site. We have a pair of laptops, with label printers for this.
With just three of us running the tour, plus 50 touring exhibitor staff, there is no margin for error. Next year we need a fourth person, so we are talking about how to find a kind of green, junior Jimmy.
Tomorrow we do Canberra, which threatens to be quiet in contrast to the great numbers we had so far.