I am no longer actively blogging on this website.
Last week I was in working Germany because I was exhibiting at Chemspec Europe. My company wrote a blog post about the event but it was more a statement of fact rather than a recollection of the trip. I thought it would be interesting to share a ‘behind the scenes’ look at everything which happened…
I stayed at my parents’ house on Monday 22nd June. On the Tuesday morning a taxi picked me up and took me to Manchester Airport, picking up Darren then Simon on the way. We flew from Terminal 1 with Germanwings. We checked in online the night before but this turned out to be completely pointless because there wasn’t a Bag Drop area. On the bright side security was very quick and I soon found myself in the Aspire lounge.
— Rich Hudson (@RichHudsonUK) June 23, 2015
The flight to Cologne was very good. In stereotypically German fashion we arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule and our bags were on the carousel by the time we got to it. We took a train from the airport to Köln Messe/Deutz station which was just outside the Koelnmesse exhibition centre and where our hotel was located.
The hotel was brilliant. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Cologne. I put our rooms on standby upgrade and I ended up in a really nice Business room which was great. My colleagues didn’t get upgraded but as a consolation they were given free breakfast. I thought this was a nice touch – it essentially saved us 75 Euros.
I must say, Radisson really know how to do customer service. I’m also a big fan of their loyalty scheme, Club Carlson.
After throwing the bags in the room we walked to the Koelnmesse and were relieved to see two pallets in our exhibition stand which we promptly unpacked. One thing I was really gutted about was the location of our stand. We had originally organised a corner stand in the middle of the exhibition but it turned out that not all the stands were sold. Essentially this meant we were on the fringes of the exhibition, in a corner. I wasn’t happy about this so I looked into alternative options. The organisers couldn’t move us (there was another stand free but because it had been paid for they weren’t allowed to let anyone else occupy it). So I spoke to the people who sold us the stand in the first instance, Quartz Chemicals. To be fair they couldn’t have been nicer. We left it as something we will sort out when we got home. I’m not sure what they will do for us but I am expecting something fairly significant – be it a partial refund, discount on next year’s stand, or something else. We missed out on a tremendous amount of footfall and I made it very clear when I booked it that we didn’t want to be on the edges of the exhibition.
Anyway, erecting the stand was a doddle, mostly because my colleagues Simon and Darren did the heavy lifting while I liaised with people about the stand location issue! It looked good when we finished, all ready for the stampede to follow over the next couple of days. We went for a 4m x 3m stand. This was considerably better than the 3m x 3m stand we would normally go for and I have vowed to book 4×3’s in the future.
If you’ve ever been to an exhibition the day before it opens it looks more like a building site with tradesmen running around erecting stands and putting the finishing touches to everything. One tip if you find yourself in this situation – leave the plastic wrapper on your carpet – that way it will look pristine when you open your stand in the morning. It also stops tradesmen leaving dusty footprints everywhere.
That night we ventured into Cologne. We jumped in a taxi and wandered around until we found a restaurant called the Funk Haus (possibly the coolest name ever). Food and service both excellent. Then we went for a few beers down by the river.
Later in the evening we found ourselves talking to a group of American guys who worked for Varian Medical Systems who are based in Silicon Valley. It was interesting talking to them – they said one of the biggest challenges for Silicon Valley firms is staff retention – there are a disproportionately large number of tech companies in their area and people don’t stay at one place for very long – 2 years on average. This must be a logistical nightmare. ReAgent recently went on a recruitment drive and while it was very worthwhile it was also time consuming and expensive. I never thought of this before.
I woke up feeling a bit worse for wear, ate half of the leftover currywurst I ordered via room service from the night before, met my Darren and Simon then walked to the exhibition. It was this moment when I realised how smart it was booking a hotel so close to the venue 😉
We had a great morning. I met loads of customers and suppliers. We didn’t get as many enquiries as we have at other exhibitions but the quality of leads was high. I’d go for quality over quantity any day. It’s more productive (and you know I like to be productive).
There were attendees and exhibitors from all over the globe, including quite a few Chinese and Indian companies looking to do more business in Europe. I got the usual people trying to sell me things (it really pisses me off when someone approaches you pretending to be a customer then switches to a hard sell) but thankfully this was only a small minority; most people I spoke to were quite friendly.
By chance my colleague, Simon, won a Kindle Fire HD! The organizers randomly selected 6 winners from everyone at the event and it just so happened he was one of them. He was chuffed.
We manned the stand all day until 16:15 when we went to the UK Pavilion because they had a drinks reception. It was useful to talk to other exhibitors from the UK. ReAgent was actually on the UK Pavilion last year (I didn’t go because I was on holiday). Apparently the stand was slightly busier this year, which we put down to being our own stand and not one shared by other companies (I can only imagine how busy we would have been if our stand was in the place we originally booked it…)
After the drinks reception we went to the ‘Exhibitor Party’ which was basically just a big networking event for the exhibitors. It wasn’t up to much so we left and went back to the hotel.
— ReAgent Chemicals (@ReAgent_UK) June 24, 2015
That evening we went for a bite to eat at Löwenbräu Köln on the Rhine, then headed for a few more beers and ended up in a brilliant jazz bar called Papa Joe’s which had live music on.
The second day of the exhibition was just as good as the first. I found myself being much more proactive on the second day – I had a number of meetings with people on other stands and made sure I had a good walk round and talk to as many people as I could. There was a real mix of companies, large and small. I found Day 2 better for networking.
I got pretty tired in the afternoon – all the travelling and German booze, combined with being on my feet all day – started to take its’ toll. But it was still fun. We came away with some really solid enquiries and I got some good ideas for future exhibitions. Exhibiting is a constant learning curve.
When the exhibition finished we packed our stand away and put our belongings on a couple of pallets which would meet back in the UK.
— ReAgent Chemicals (@ReAgent_UK) June 26, 2015
And that’s pretty much it! We went out for a meal on the last night, got some rest then flew back to Manchester the next morning. I’m glad we booked flights the next day – it would have been exhausting to travel back after the exhibition finished.
I had a great time at Chemspec Europe 2015. It was thoroughly enjoyable from a personal perspective and we have some promising enquiries. Can’t wait for the next Chemspec event now!