The World Exhibition Stand Awards are a new set of awards designed to celebrate the very best in exhibition stand design and experience – whatever the show, wherever in the world, and whoever the client.
Ahead of the awards, EW spoke to John Young, Executive Creative Director at M Integrated Solutions, about the state of stand design today, and where the market is heading in the future.
What are the big trends in exhibition stand design?
The transformation of stands from being ‘architectural and display’ with them now becoming brand experiences and narratively led journeys. Today, visitors’ experience is the centre of every successful exhibition concept. The use of digital technology – blending mixed realities to enhance the visitor experience – has been incorporated into the trade show industry now in ways that we have never had before. A more sustainable approach to exhibition stands is an increasing consideration in stand design and build.
How international is the exhibition industry becoming?
The industry has always been international, either inbound industries reaching the UK market or UK companies pushing for export. The GREAT campaign is the perfect example of this. In addition, developing countries compete for global exhibitions and conferences such as the World Expos, World Petroleum Conference and UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties – it’s an efficient way of developing a nation’s commercial tourism and putting the country on the map.
What is driving this internationalisation?
The continued search for new markets and to reinforce a company’s innovations, expertise and products are two main drivers.
What has been the best innovation of the past 5 years?
Technology moves extremely quickly. It seems like there is a new innovation produced nearly every day. The true measurement is one of the best innovation of the past five years, allowing to really understand what results can be gained from an exhibition. Meanwhile, as tech moves, the ability to use technology as part of the overall story-telling and narrative has never been faster than it is today.
What are clients currently asking for in stand and experience design?
Data data data! This is the idea that through face to face connection they can understand and respond better to client or market needs. Indeed, used correctly, the collection of data can be very useful for business development and marketing purposes. Also, every event starts – and ends – with customer experience; this is why it is essential for clients to connect the customer experience and relevance for visitors to the stand.
How are exhibitions and stand design staying relevant in a digital world?
Digital needs a reason to be seen, searched for or found in the first place. The use of powerful thought provoking experiences excites customers, if done well often becoming the central idea behind the digital solution. In addition, they are blending the physical with the digital worlds to learn more and improve the overall experience of the stand visitor.
What do you expect the next 5 years will hold for exhibition stand design?
Becoming more responsive, focusing on tech like AI and immersive technologies that will help visitors to better understand messages will lead exhibition stand design for the next 5 years. As technology develops at an exponential pace our challenge will be to ensure that technology does not outweigh the importance of human interaction and therefore development of commercial relationships.
Do exhibitions get the status they deserve versus other marketing channels?
No, but this is changing, they are often one of the largest part of the marketing mix and are highly strategic in markets or in their messages so as measurement becomes part of the design process the value ‘goes up’ as their effectiveness is realised. Increasingly, exhibitions are becoming a way of connecting with audiences in the physical world. They are becoming a significant factor when it comes to marketing – we anticipate continued growth in this sector.
What’s the best exhibition stand or event you’ve seen in the last year?
We are really proud of what M delivered on behalf of BAE Systems Farnborough Air Show last year. From our VR programme to raise awareness of RAF careers, to the ‘media wall which told the BAE Systems story in an innovative to the unveiling of ‘Team Tempest’ the latest in defense aviation.
If you could change one thing about the world of exhibitions what would it be?
Waste, reducing carbon footprint and cost is key to the future of global exhibitions. Indeed, it is more important than ever that we appreciate the diverse impacts that events can have on the environment, and consider how to stage more sustainable ones.
Does stand size matter?
It’s a very careful balance, the targeted location is more important than size. It also depends on the objectives of the client and what they want to achieve with their exhibition activity plan.