Graham Walton: Grasp the nettle, and technology

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GrahamWaltonAre agricultural show organisers giving customers want they want? Graham Walton, managing partner of Graham Walton Publishing, and NOEA member, puts forward his views

Agricultural shows are part of our national heritage. Their attraction lies in the special mix of animals, entertainment, and being part of the social fabric of the locality. But what does the future hold for these events – will there always be the financial support and the volunteers coming forward to help? I think the answer will be positive and a resounding yes in the vast majority of cases. Even with such an awful summer as we have experienced this year local communities, supporters and volunteers came forward to ensure that many still went ahead. Though many open field sites had no choice but to cancel it was not for want of support from their locality.

Many of the permanent show sites face an uncertain future. But, if they continue to manage their finances professionally, support their local suppliers where they can, keep with traditional values and use their unique position as an interface between industry and the general public in an educational role, they will survive and flourish.

There are a number of advancements in technology, which can help agricultural events to “move ahead”. Some will argue that country shows do not need technology to run their event. Yet, to ignore it would be wrong.

By 2014 smart phones will be responsible for more than half the downloads which take place from the Internet. It’s time to take advantage and use it. E-ticketing will come and in many more permanent sites is now being adopted, as are e-vouchers for catalogues and show guides. At present they are slow to use at the point of delivery on the ground and of course require good connectivity, which is not always the case on green field sites. Visitors will want to buy tickets online and will want to download an e-ticket and e-voucher, so we should help. The next move is the ability for visitors to purchase a catalogue or show guide in digital form to store but not transfer from their smart phone. No more paper programmes and catalogues, payment made digitally, transfer a file onto the phone, like e-vouchers slightly more time consuming than cash and the printed item, but it is coming and we in the agricultural show market should grasp the nettle if its what our visitors want.