EXHIBITION NEWS July 2017 - Page 22

COVER FEATURE 22 EN. “When you’re dealing with the public, particularly families, it’s all about the fi ner detail.” In a previous life Pilling used to run the London Toy Fair, spending six years at the helm of the show as part of the British Toy & Hobby Association before resigning three years ago. “I had a burning ambition to create a consumer event,” he explains. “Every time ITV or the BBC picked up on the Toy Fair my phone would ring with people asking how to get tickets for the show. I’d then have to let them down and tell them it was a trade show (and then I’d have to explain what a trade show was). “People would ask if there was a similar show that they could take their family to, and I had to say there wasn’t anything. This kept happening each year, before my wife fi nally decided to give me a push and said ‘you’ve got to give this a go’.” After running a 2015 consumer event based around toys – which he describes as ‘alright’ – Pilling launched Kidtropolis at ExCeL London in 2016. The show expanded from just toys to anything relating to children and families and attracted 18,500 people over three days. With so many children and young families coming to the venue, almost every element of organising the show has to be considered through this lens. Even choosing a date to hold the event requires a relatively long thought process, and an element of second-guessing of the behavioural patterns of potential visitors. “You want families to come together, so it has to be a weekend,” explains Pilling. “That limits you to a two-day event unless you hold it over a bank holiday and expand to three. Alternatively you can hold it on half term or in the summer holidays. People tend to go away in the summer holidays so the decision was made to make it the October half term.” July 2017 | exhibitionnews.co.uk After narrowing in on a specifi c date to hold the show, Pilling also decided on a specifi c age range that the show should appeal to: ages 12 and under. While it might seem counterproductive to exclude a whole section of the show’s potential audience, it allowed the Kidtropolis team to choose exhibitors and content appropriate to a younger age group. “I think it’s better to specify a narrow age range,” argues Pilling. “The kids know what they’re into, the parents know what they’re into, and they can make an informed decision about whether it’s suitable for them to attend the show. Parents know it’s not an event with gory computer games, and we can make sure the content is suitable. Safety fi rst “We can also think carefully about what to bring in," he continues. "Are there age restrictions? Are there height restrictions? Are there ability restrictions? Is it noisy?” Pilling makes sure both the Kidtropolis team and the show’s exhibitors have their young audience in mind when designing the experience. This involves adding bright colour and hands-on activities to the show, as well as considering what each element would look like from the perspective of a small child. This is also a consideration for the organisers of BRICKLIVE, who bring in around one million of LEGO’s colourful bricks to shows to create a bright, vibrant space for young children. The emphasis at both shows is on creativity and interactivity, with experiences that are designed to inspire and educated the children in attendance. “We’ve looked around museums, as well as other events and experiences, to fund things that work well and can be incorporated into the event,” Pilling says. “There are lots of festivals and summer events and gaming festivals, but there’s nothing as eclectic as this, it’s a bit of everything.” When it comes to a show heavily aimed at children and young families, the infrastructure of the venue should be a consideration, along with whether it will be able to cope with an infl ux of a specifi c type of customer. “You have to think about the services available onsite,” explains Pilling. “If you’re bringing a family they might have a younger baby, so do you bring in elements like baby changing, buggy parks or breastfeeding areas? Do you think about coffee spaces for parents to sit and enjoy themselves while the kids are playing? “Sometimes you have to specify that this isn’t a drop off and pick up later kind of event. It sounds crazy but you hear from security fi rms about parents who’ve dropped off a kid and come back four hours later to pick them up. “Also, in terms of security, you need to have a very strict lost child policy. They can’t go wandering out of an event on their own. You need to make sure that the guys on the door will spot them and make sure they’re reunited with the parents.” Another consideration for Pilling is the balance between exhibitors and experiences, and how exhibitors are likely to interact with visitors to the show. “Kidtropolis isn’t fi rst and foremost about retail,” he explains. “It’s about the experience. It’s about having fun and spending time with family. The feedback we got from last year was that it’s wonderful not to be pressured into buying something. Some of our exhibitors see it purely as a marketing experience; a chance to get the brand out there. Equally if visitors want to make a purchase that mechanism is there.” It’s important to Pilling that visitors – especially