The role of feature areas is being lost among the egos

What’s in it for me? That’s the only question that people really ever ask themselves.

What’s in it for me? That’s the only question that people really ever ask themselves. So as a visitor, what exactly is in it for me when I visit a show feature area? Obviously it’s a pitstop, and a chance to rest and recharge. But as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t be a convenient way to flog subscriptions or ram the sponsor’s message home; and it isn’t a place for presenters to simply entertain or brag about what a great way they spend their lives getting paid for doing something they love, jetting around the world to exotic locations on the broadcasters’ budget. Entertainment is obviously an essential element, contributing as it does to a great day out for all those who visit a show, but clearly relevance is everything, or at least it ought to be. The best features, and there are some amazing pieces of theatre that do blow visitors’ minds, really are amazing feats of production. They stick to the point, they are well constructed and they stay on-message. I have seen some fabulous productions, such as Clotheshow and MPH, but I have also seen some appalling abuse of visitor goodwill. I won’t name names, it’s not helpful, but the guilty parties seem to shoot themselves in the foot simply by forgetting that the audience they serve is there to learn, to experience their special interest in an entertaining way, and not just be entertained. I’ve seen presenters hijack the event by sending up certain aspects of it with the primary aim of whipping up the audience, which only damages the event’s brand for some throwaway gags and cheap laughs. Self-deprecation is very appealing but it needs a lot of expertise to make it work and needs to be based on a love of the subject by someone who is trusted. Many presenters either don’t have that level of ability or are not in that position. All feature areas need tough management, creative input, logistics and a strong direction. Think like a great TV production company – don’t let a celebrity hijack the feature, and don’t let people go off-brand with the message. A feature area is the organiser’s chance to shine, to stamp its authority on an event. It’s vital not to throw away this opportunity by wasting time and money, both yours and that of your visitors.

Sarah Farrugia is managing director of Farrugia Leo Research and Consultancy

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