Authors: Jochen Witt and Gerd Weber
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Public and International Affairs Of Shahr-e-Aftab International Exhibition
Reference: World Exhibition Magazine- Isuue 1/2014.


Over the past years the industry’s focus has shifted away from the physical part of our business and tended to focus more on the digital and virtual side of things. But the physical part; the venue’s quality, has a strong impact on the perception of those attending the show. If visitors, exhibitors and media attend a show, they do not differentiate between venue and show quality. Therefore, let’s not forget: venues are still the basis for our business. We cannot be successful without them. In other words: a venue of high quality can be very beneficial to the quality of a show, a venue of poor quality can be detrimental to the success or future growth of a show. But what determines a top quality venue? Or flipping the question the other way around, which criteria must be considered, and at which benchmark levels should a venue be marked as good or as poor? There has been some joint activity concerning venue safety. This is highly valuable, but so far not enough to provide venues with specific and concrete information on how to secure the highest possible safety standards.

In particular, we see that various specific (and sometimes relatively simple) measures to improve venue safety are not being implemented by many venue operators. In addition, venue owners and operators generally devise and implement their own structures and systems. In terms of venue service quality and efficiency, the spectrum is even wider. Lack of common standards leaves the field open for each venue operator/owner to come up with its own measures, processes and structures. This is highly demanding on resources and very inefficient.
Reflecting on all of these activities to measure and improve venue quality, a few challenges and gaps come to mind:

1- The overall approach taken by our industry is not efficient in addressing multiple levels of exposure to risks (i.e., compliance, what is acceptable, what is a ‘show stopper’ etc.)
2- The comparison of assessment results is not possible
3- Information is not published to support stakeholder groups like organizers, exhibitors or visitors

Based on our experience of more than 15 years of venue development, working on more than 20 master plan assessments, and visits to numerous exhibition and congress venues, JWC developed a simple frame work for a Venue Rating System (VRS). With this system we support venues to increase stakeholder satisfaction. Focusing as an industry on the venue quality front, the improved platforms of our business will be in a better position to compete for marketing budgets of the future. There is much at stake here for the exhibition and large congress industry as a whole if we continue to neglect the safety and quality of our ‘hardware’. The VRS is based on checklists, predefined structures and systems to provide specific guidance to venues and organizers. The VRS shows the venue owner/manager in which areas a facility lags behind international benchmarks, in which critical elements there may be deficits, and of course in which criteria the venue merits an outstanding rating. The framework is based on three major criteria, which in our view cover all relevant aspects: service quality, efficiency and safety.

Service quality

High standards in service quality provide a clear competitive advantage for exhibition and congress venues. Service quality covers many different areas. We distinguish between fee-charged offerings like technical services for exhibitors; food and beverage for visitors or advertising space for guest organizers etc., and free-of-charge services like restrooms or signage. Additionally, service quality covers all soft factors of the venue like quality of the architecture, brightness, general condition and cleanliness. All these components together create a feel-good factor for exhibitors, visitors and guest organizer. Those responsible for the long-term viability of the venue are tasked with achieving the highest service level in an extensive range of services for all customers.


Next to high service quality, customers ask for a highly efficient venue. Efficiency factors vary between the different stakeholders. Guest organizers ask for low energy consumption, high net/gross ratios for exhibition space and optimized flows in specific key areas like registration, catering and others. Exhibitors are interested in easy access to key logistics zones for loading of goods, hall gates, high technical standards for installations and rigging. Visitor and exhibitor delegates’ interest in matters efficiency is ensuring a short distance between exhibitions halls, lessened transportation queues at peak times, good air circulation, and a high venue clarity to optimize their visit time, to name just a few. Finally, venue owners and managers are interested in optimized operating costs and reduced investments. High efficiency in a venue is characterized by efficient design, building layout, and hall connectivity, the footprint of service and technical rooms, and associated technical installations.


Safety covers the activities and technology necessary to preserve the integrity and wellbeing of all people who participate at the events (exhibitors, visitors, staff, media, management, subcontractors and other stakeholders). Safety starts with technical installations like smoke detectors, sprinklers and emerging exits, but extends to many interconnected processes like evacuation plans, coordination-policies between venue manager, guest organizers and sub-contractors. Finally the safety level of a venue is dependent on the skills and readiness (e.g. Performance of drills) of safety staff in case of emergency.

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