What’s the biggest challenge facing suppliers in 2017? EN gets the lowdown from four industry figures.
John Robson, managing director, Aztec Event Services
The biggest issue that we have faced as an exhibition supplier in the last 12 months is build up and breakdown times. The reality is that this is not a new issue for 2017 but nor are we any closer to solving it.
Because of this we have suffered with walls being broken down while our guys are derigging screens on the other side (with the inevitable consequences), being asked to rig/derig AV equipment inside theatres in the dark because the electric supply has been pulled and, most seriously, reportable near misses due to pressures on other contractors’ derig crews.
As I say, this is not a new issue for 2017, but what has changed for me over the last few months is that I’m not sure that this is something that can be solved simply with a top-down approach by ESSA working with AEV and AEO.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully endorse and support the associations in their efforts. But my problem is that there are just too many variables that impact upon build up and breakdown at different events, not to mention the fact that as soon as discussions veer towards anything vaguely commercial, the shutters come down.
We are all stakeholders in live events and we are all in the business of making hay while the sun shines, so these pressures will only increase. I think that if there is a solution to be found, it will come from a bottom-up approach that will ultimately lead to a best practice, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all solution.
What I mean by this is that there are some events where we all know that these pressures are most severe. On these events the contractors, organiser and venue must decide that they will try to work differently from the usual template and from this a solution may emerge, assuming there is one. By actively engaging with organisers and venues and discussing how we can approach specific events differently, I hope that new operating templates will arise.
Paul Brady, sales and marketing executive, CEVA Showfreight
For those working in worldwide events, 2017 has thrown up various challenges. At CEVA Showfreight, we place great emphasis on being able to adapt to our customers’ requirements as well as the individual demands of each event that we are involved with. Increased security, stepped up in light of recent events, can cause potential delays to international shipments and it’s important for us to work alongside the authorities to make the process as smooth (and safe) as possible.
Brexit and how the logistics industry may be affected is still up for debate. In any industry there are going to be bumps in the road but it’s all about how we react to those bumps and learn from them going into 2018.
Adam Aston, group sales director, Thorns Group
Our key challenge is to always be one step ahead when it comes to furniture trends, and to have the ability to offer diverse product ranges that complement our wide spectrum of client sectors. We will often source new furniture ranges for our clients, however it can sometimes be problematic ensuring that manufacturing and shipping adheres to the event time frames.
Tenancy is an ongoing challenge; we fully appreciate that budgets are tighter nowadays and that as contractors we need to deliver excellent customer service within shorter timescales, not only to get the job done but also to continue our reputation as a leading furniture provider.
There will always be stiff competition and new contractors entering the ever-growing live events market. The issue is not to focus on others but to continue to challenge ourselves and look for gaps in the market that offer diversity like the launch of our Black Box draping division.
Justin Craig, founder, LiveBuzz
I think the biggest issue facing LiveBuzz is when investment-backed or VC-owned suppliers and new tech are looking for market penetration and undervalue or give away their services at non-sustainable rates. This potentially destabilises the supplier market and devalues the perception of established service providers who operate on sustainable operational and cost models.
The term ‘disruptive technology’ has, ironically, shifted from being a new technology that catalyses a fundamental change based on added value propositions, to being plain ‘disruptive’ in the traditional sense.
Equally, new technologies often promise the earth but then under deliver due to their lack of knowledge around how exhibitions and conferences work in the real world. This makes it more challenging for good technology plays to be rolled out to the market.
With event organisers and event marketers still under pressure to manage tight budgets there will be a continued chase to the bottom line, rather than an open-mindedness about how higher quality propositions can increase show profits. There is a risk that suppliers are forced to become a more commoditised, high-volume and low-value resource – which won’t benefit either organiser or visitor in the long term.
Editor’s note: This feature appeared in the September issue of EN. The digital edition is available now.