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Phil Soar: What exhibition organisers really mean

by Emily Wallin

EN guest editor Phil Soar deciphers the true definitions of common expressions in the exhibitions industry. 

A New Jersey colleague would proudly pronounce: “I always say what I mean. What you see is what you get.”
I was confused by this – knowing that I regularly fail to say what I really mean.
Of course all businesses have their own phrases and statements which mean something completely different – a sort of private language.
This is a game best played with politicians. They say: “We are focusing entirely on delivering our programme for the good of the hard-working people of this country.”
Which means: “Please stop asking questions about how many children Boris has” or “We refuse to talk about the cost of gold wallpaper.”
Or parents saying to their children: “There’s nothing to worry about” which means: “There definitely is something to worry about.”
Here are a few from our own world.

We say: “We have polled our exhibitors and they tell us that they are very enthusiastic about moving from Venue A to Venue B.”
We mean: “Venue B have offered us a free tenancy for next year and a 50% rate for two years after that. Given the sales numbers so far, I am grabbing at this god sent opportunity to cut costs.”
We say: “We are deeply committed to sustainability as part of our company philosophy. Therefore we are not laying carpet to save waste.”
We mean: “We can’t afford £2 a square metre for the carpet.”
We say: “Yes, I am the brand director for the show and I am the person ultimately responsible for its success and failure. Please bring any problems to me.”
We mean: “I have no idea what is going on. No one reports to me – sales staff report to the group sales director, marketing to the group marketing director etc and I can’t even send out an email without the group data director approving.”
We say: “The numbers are down, but the quality is up.”
We mean: “Well, the visitor numbers are definitely down. We haven’t a clue whether the quality is up.”
We say: “Our exhibitors have been telling us that they really prefer to make their own dinner dates in Solihull, so we will not be running an exhibitor party.”
We mean: “That’s £50,000 saved.”

“Our commitment to sustainability means no carpet…”
We say: “The industry tells us that the travel and hotel costs, as well as having staff outside the office for a three-day show, are hurting them. So in response to customer demand, next year we will change to a two day event.”
We mean: “We can negotiate a 25% tenancy cost rebate from the NEC.”
We say: “We have a very robust judging system for our prestigious awards with a group of completely independent utterly reliable judges.”
We mean: “I haven’t a clue how that could have won.”
We say: “It’s my fault for not explaining the budget carefully enough”
We mean: “It’s your fault”
We say: “Let’s run that great idea up the flagpole and see if the cat licks it off.”
We mean: “We hate it”
We say: “We are doing everything we can to improve the catering.”
We mean: “Stop complaining about the catering.”
We say: “Sincere congratulations to [name] for winning Venue of the Year.”
We mean: “The judges cannot be serious.”
We say: “To succeed in this business I promise you need just three things – hard work, determination and honesty.”
We mean: “The three things which seem to work here are: style over substance, appearance over reality, and if you don’t know the answer then change the question.”

“We believe the future is digital…”
We say: “Thank you very much coming along and giving us such an interesting insight into your thoughts for the future. There are some intriguing questions for us to ponder, so let us get back to you.”
We mean: “No”
We say: “That’s a really helpful follow up to your suggestions.”
We mean: “Still no”
We say: “Yes, the sales numbers have dipped the last couple of weeks, but the pipeline is really, really strong.”
We mean: “Please don’t keep looking at the sales graph.”
We say: “We believe that the future is digital and are recalibrating our resources.”
We mean: “I read this book by AMR…”
“The company is so much more focussed now…”
We say: “Are you holding that graph upside down?”
We mean: “Christ, are the sales really that bad.”
We say: “We are great supporters of the democratic process and feel strongly that everyone has the right to express their sincere beliefs at the ballot box.”
We mean: “We don’t employ Brexiteers.”
We say: “Of course we respect your views and admire your honesty in expressing them.”
We mean: “Read my lips: We will never employ Brexiteers.”
We say: “I have just a few minor comments on your marketing plan.”
We mean: “Please re-write the whole thing”

“I hear what you say….”
We say: “I hear what you say”
We mean: “Shut up”
We say: “We must have lunch to discuss your new event idea”
We mean: “Please don’t call me to try to arrange lunch.”
We say: “Could we consider some other options for the Show logo?”
We mean: “That’s garbage”
We say: “I might join you later at the pub to continue our discussion”
We mean: “I’m going straight home”
We say: “That new operations manager is very intelligent you know.”
We mean: “Phew.”
We say: “How are you today?”
We mean: “Please don’t tell me”
We say: “We reached out to 35,000 contacts and we had 114,567 clicks on the website, 203,689 on the various digital features and 45,876 Facebook views.”
We mean: “We employ this data optimisation company who say they can measure these things. I have no idea how they do it or what it means.”
Other suggestions gratefully received. 


Picture by Jonny Donovan.

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