The London Underground is a weird beast.

Much like Fight Club there are a few golden rules that you simply don’t break when you travel the tube. If you break these rules, be under no illusion, you will feel the silent scorn of all who witnessed your transgression.

For example…

Rule #6 – Stand on the right of the elevators, walk on the left.

Rule #3 – Don’t get on the carriage while others are still getting off.

Rule #11 – You don’t need to wait for the barriers to close before you tap your oyster card

But there is one unbreakable rule of London Underground that stands alone…

Rule #1 – DO NOT talk to anyone you don’t know. Ever. EVER!

Sounds strange but the tube is a place of solitude for the tired, weary, solo-travelling Londoners and it can only be broken by the sound of screeching rails and tinny headphones.

However, someone tried to break that rule.

Step forward a cheery American called Jonathan Dunne who wanted to make people a bit more sociable on the tube and distributed ‘Tube chat?’ badges.

The idea is quite simple. The badge is a signal to other commuters that the wearer is happy to have a chat with a complete stranger.

I get the sentiment of the idea; it’s nice, it’s cute, it’s what should happen in life….it will never work and it didn’t.

Cut a long story short it went down like a smelly fart in a carriage and even Jonathan admits that ‘80% of people think it’s terrible and probably the worst idea ever’.

London commuters have as ever been great with their twitter responses…

Alternative badges have also been created like ‘stop manspreading’, ‘f**k off’ and ‘mouthbreathers be gone’.

I like the last one.

The problem lies in the fact that although it’s a nice idea it’s all a little bit artificial, it’s all a little bit imposed and a little bit too ideal and just doesn’t cut it in the real world.

It’s not just on the tube that the ‘chat’ problem exists.

It’s a big problem in exhibitions and trade shows.

The whole premise of the exhibition industry is based around interactions, handshakes, relationships, leads, sales and loyalty. And it all starts with that throwaway little term, ‘chat’.

Getting the exhibitors and visitors chatting should be the unbreakable golden rule of any exhibition. But it’s tough right? Trying to get people to chat.

As organisers, suppliers and venues we all try to make the chat as easy as possible. There are things that work and there are things that don’t.

I think venues help people chat. Especially the investing ones like ExCeL and NEC.

I think stand design and layout help people chat. Especially the open ones.

I think graphics help people chat. Especially the concise ones.


I don’t think visitor badges help people chat. I think it hinders chat.

I don’t think 99% of event tech help people chat – yet. I think it’s too artificial.

I don’t think exhibitor training (in its current guise) help people chat. It’s too unnatural.


The best way to maximise chat will always start and end with the visitor and exhibitor experience and sometimes it can get lost in the battle to measure and manage the data and the metrics and the spreadsheets.

A little chat – probably the most underestimated thing in the exhibition hall.

And probably the most important as well.

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Exhibitor Smarts is a specialist exhibitor agency working alongside organisers and suppliers to maximise exhibitor revenue and performance.

We also work directly with exhibitors saving more than 30% off their investments.

Email: jim@exhibitorsmarts.com

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