I went to the Ottawa Home and Garden Show last week to see what it was all about and I have to say, I was rather dissapointed. Here's why:
1. Inappropriate location
The show took place at Landsdowne Park. I think this location is totally inappropriate for a home show unless it is properly retrofitted to inspire home owners and help them improve their home and garden. Lansdowne Park looks like an old sports center that hasn't been taken cared of for years and that desperately needs a makeover. It just doesn't measure up to to places like Place Bonaventure, the Palais des Congres, or the Metro Toronto Convention Center. And I don't understand outdoor ticket booths. They look like ice fishing shelters! What if it rained that day?
2. Lack of organization and consistency
On my way to the car (way in the back), after my visit, I was approached by three people who were looking for the entrance to the show. There was absolutely no direction indications for people who came by car and had to park way in the back. Also, I didn't see any pamphlets with a map of the show indicating where each supplier was located. There were 4 separate buildings to go to. Some visitors were able to keep half of their tickets and some didn't. There was no exit route after visiting the show in the first building. So once you were done visiting you had to go back through the "vendors corridor" again.
3. Lack of attention to details and inspiration
I believe that a home show, like a design show, should inspire homeowners to improve their living space by showcasing new ideas and new products. To do that, you need to take the time to present your products and services in the right manner and it seems like this year a lot of exhibitors missed the mark on that.
For example the design of the stage had some good elements. The white chairs along the path towards the stage were a good idea but the burgundy chair detracted from the modern feel of it and not much attention seemed to have been paid to the floor aside from the black carpet. To me, it looked like an incomplete project.
Some exhibitors took the time to erect solid walls (very good) as opposed to keeping the default black curtains (very bad) and used nice flooring but the space was either unfinished, too cluttered with various products or scattered.
But I have to applaud the efforts of some exhibitors, like Vert Design, EQ3 and Maison Bonneville who paid more attention to details and as such made a much better first impression.
Vert Design did a really nice job. Their booth was attractive, simple and complete. They had lighting, nice simple colors that went well with one another. The design of the booth reflected the type of service they offered.
EQ3 had actual living spaces that gave you a good idea on how their furniture would look like in your space. They had plates on the table, art on the wall, fish in the fishbowl, etc.
Maison Bonneville made an excellent effort by presenting a complete house with proper accessories. They even took the time to landscape around the house and stage it.
I think many Ottawa exhibitors should put a lot more effort into the presentation of their booth and take it upon themselves to inspire visitors. This is a first step I think to get to the same level as other trade shows like the ones in Montreal and Toronto. Just to give you an idea, here are some pictures of booths I took during the Salon de l'habitation (an equivalent to the Ottawa Home and Gardern show in Montreal) in 2004 and 2007.
Salon de l'habitation (Montreal, 2004)
Salon de l'habitation (Montreal, 2007)
See what I mean? And the design shows (I don't believe there is one in Ottawa yet) like the IDS in Toronto or the SIDIM in Montreal have even more spectacular booths! (Maybe I'll show some pictures next time, but you can visit my Flickr page for some pictures taken at IDS08 in Toronto)
So, as an exhibitor, if you don't know what to do to inspire visitors for the next show, hire a good designer or decorator! There are good ones in Ottawa, I've seen some nice places. Of course I'd be more than happy to help you too. Maybe I'll do one next year... we'll see.