The event planning and logistics that go into organising the bi-annual Farnborough International Air Show are mind blowing. Now in its 70th year at the birth place of British aviation, the show is a key event in the aerospace industry calendar, attracting approximately 100,000 visitors to the trade show throughout the week and a similar number of visitors to the public event at the weekend.
During the air show, I was invited along with event industry press to experience the show and to view the recently opened £30 million conference centre.
Amanda Thurlow at Farnborough International Airshow
Organising the Farnborough International Air Show is no mean feat with outdoor exhibitions, a multi hall indoor tradeshow, a myriad of meetings, an industry conference, corporate hospitality, all taking place simultaneously. Not to mention a visit from Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister.
Carlo Zoccali, Account Director, Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre explained that a growing core team of between 15 and 45 people work on the event and that the main build starts 119 days prior to opening, completely transforming the site. Once the event opens there is no time for the team to sit back and reflect, as the build for the public event starts at the edge of the site, whilst the trade show is underway.
At peak there are 3,000 contractors working on the event, ensuring that business runs smoothly throughout. On the first day of the trade show around $46 billion worth of business deals took place. During our tour Michael Watton, Venue Director, IECC was connected by ear piece to a radio, which was providing a continual feed of information from important updates from the event control office to requests for contractors to empty rubbish bins outside chalets.
Farnborough International Air Show 2018
With the team at Farnborough launching their new venue just months before the air show it is clear they don't shy away from a challenge. Especially, as after the show finishes their focus moves to planning the Bahrain International Airshow, which they are also organising in November.
The outside view of Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre
The modern conference centre overlooking the airport runway spans over 2 floors offering 12,500 sqm exhibition hall and 10 meeting rooms.
Hall 1 at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre
With Farnborough train station being only 35 minutes from Waterloo station, access from London is easy. Of course with an onsite airport there is also the option to fly directly to the venue. Event organisers could consider chartering a plane!
One of the biggest challenges that the venue faces is the availability of nearby accommodation for event attendees. According to Carlo the average occupancy rate of local hotels is about 85% throughout the year, with hotel rooms during the air show selling for as much as £700 a night! Two new hotels in the pipeline are set to improve bedroom availability and thereby increase the functionality of Farnborough IECC for event planners.
Inspire/ The Skyview Restaurant at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre
Inspire, the main event space in Hall 1, used as the Skyview brasserie style restaurant during the air show, is located on the first floor and boasts views over the runway with capacity for 900 theatre style.
The Flight Deck Roof Terrace, Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre
Smaller first floor meeting rooms offer access to The Flight Deck, a roof terrace area overlooking the runway. Although used as a media facility during the air show, it would make the ideal location for a summer drinks reception. Outside of the air show Farnborough still operates as a functioning airport with a regular flow of air traffic, so guests can watch the planes landing and taking off whilst enjoying their drinks.
Entrance Foyer in Hall 1 of Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre
Entrances either side of the building allow for events to run parallel to each other without impacting on each other, although exclusive hire is also available if required.
Catering in the ADS Group hospitality chalet
Following the tour we had chance to relax, sample the catering and watch the planes fly past the chalet balcony, flexing their wings in a beauty pageant style parade to attract buyers.
The more I heard Michael answer questions and talk about the venue one thing stood out to me - flexibility. Did exhibitors have to use the venue's contractors for the chalet builds? No, they can do but some choose to use there own. Do exhibitors have to use Sodexho, the onsite caterers? Again no but they can if they want to. The conference centre displayed stretch graphics that could be changed multiple times a day to showcase different sponsors. One room we passed through had a temporary wall installed to create a bar area and extend the area available for branding.
Large blank canvas style spaces offer the option for event planners to create the look and feel that they need for their event. This venue is one where the sky really does appear to be the limit!
For more information on Farnborugh Interantional Events and Confernece Centre visit their website