Sunday, May 02, 2010

A different kind of exhibition ?

More thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head...

When not building models of stuff, I do a few hours work in a small, local, cinema. In addition to films we also host live shows and at a recent talk given to a local horticultural society I found myself working the slide projector for the speaker.

His speciality was creating gardens based on natural landscape forms and the main text revolved around the places he found to inspire his designs. We had photographs from around the world as well as a small selection of the finished projects in this country. There wasn't actually much practical advice for the audience but plenty to help them come up with their own grand designs.

This set me thinking - just over a hundred people had come together in an auditorium for a very high level talk on garden design. Would it be possible to get a similar number to attend to listen to a talk on designing model railways ?

Lectures in our hobby have a long history. Look at any ancient magazine and you'll find mention of Mr Chumley-Warner giving a talk on LNWR level frame locking or similar to The Model Railway Club. These always conjure up in my mind an image of gentlemen (no ladies present) sitting in starched suits and sporting fine moustaches listening attentively as the speaker drones on about some arcane topic. I'm not sure at what date the trend for these died out but presumably there was a gradual shift over the years from everyone sitting and listening to an expert to rooms full of people building layouts, and having to listen to loads of "experts"...

At Model Engineering shows there are still lecture programmes. Sadly, those I’ve been to have been woefully under supported despite being part of the entry package. One on metal forming particularly sticks in my mind as the speaker explained how you would take an oval sheet and form it into a dome or even a teapot, all with just a selection of hammers and a bit of wood. There are even talks at the boat show, again never seeming to attract more than ten or so people at a time. Some of the subjects tend towards the esoteric which shows by the regular reminders that the talk is about to take place over the PA system.

On that basis maybe my idea isn’t sound. The difference would be that the audience would be coming specifically to hear the talk. There wouldn’t be the call of lovely trade stands and some retail therapy to distract them.

The talk itself would (in my head) be a walk through of models produced by the speaker. Although practical aspects would be mentioned, most of the text would revolve around how and why various decisions were made along with the inspiration behind them. Behind the speaker would be a selection of pictures showing both the model and prototype. At the end of the session the idea would be for the audience to get a window into the creative process and pinch some ideas for themselves.

After the main talk and probably an interval, the session would finish with questions and answers. These might well be a lot more practical but a clever speaker will have to work a bit to avoid the session dissolving into a rabid argument over religiously held positions such as DC or DCC. At the end of the day, the audience is there to find out in reasonable detail how the speaker produced stuff, not to air their own prejudices.

But would anyone pay to attend this ?

Well, first of all they would have to pay. My own experience of writing and presenting talks for conferences tells me that there is at least a day’s work putting the text together and a set of slides on a laptop. Planning will probably take another day. Then there are travel expenses and possibly even venue hire. The talk I mentioned at the start cost (I think) around a fiver a head. With approaching 100 people there that might sound like a reasonable rate, especially if the same talk could be re-used around the country but the evenings work is likely to net the speaker less than a fifth of this before tax - not a great return. If the talk was part of a book promotion or a spin off from the guests main business then this makes things more possible.

As it happens, I can see the appeal as a punter. There are many layouts out there I’d like to know more about and chatting at a show isn’t really a substitute for a proper, structured, comprehensive lecture. All of this could be stuffed in paper form but the interaction with the audience would be lost. Likewise a DVD version wouldn’t be as good as you can’t ask questions or get elaboration on interesting points.

So, could this be another exhibition strand for the future ?

1 comment:

Chris Nevard Model Railways said...


If you did this it would be fun because I'm sure it would be alot more than a dreary technical diatribe - "it's how you tell-em!". Publicity and promotion is the key I guess in the finest 'An Evening With - for One Night Only!'

You'll need to fit yourself out with a nice tweed suit (Harris of course) and practice some top grade adenoidal diction to really grab the die-hards;-)