by EN

Chris Criscione, ESSA board chair and managing director Equinox Design looks ahead to ESSA’s next decade.

In the years that I’ve been involved with ESSA, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, I’ve witnessed a great improvement in the visibility and integration of contractor businesses into the exhibition industry. I have also been a part of a contractor community that, I really believe has risen to the challenge of helping to keep our industry relevant, vibrant and forward-looking.
But ESSA has many irons in the fire, and having dwelt on my ambitions to attract young people to the industry in an earlier column, I want to review what I think the issues and challenges are that will face ESSA through the year, and in the spirit of this anniversary, to look ahead to the next decade.
ESSA has definitely helped to drive a greater professionalism and confidence among contractors, and the association can build on this success.
When ESSA celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s hard to say how far it will have come, and what the future will throw up in its path, but it’s my hope that by then we will have the full attention of government, and recognition on a par with the value of the industry to the economy and the country.
There’s been progress already made through partnerships and initiatives with governmental bodies, and I recognise it’s a slow and painstaking process.
I think the key to success for this association, over the next ten years, will only be achieved through greater cooperation with our fellow associations and their member businesses. Contractors are experiencing greater levels of involvement, and a greater recognition of their talents and services; there’s a greater balance to the whole industry, and we need to advance that trend.
Technology is shaping the industry more than ever. Behind the scenes, exhibition businesses in all sectors are refining their data gathering and processing capabilities to give them greater insight, and in turn greater efficiency across the board from logistics to waste disposal.
On the exhibition floor, contractors are creating amazing experiences, combining new developments in technology to great effect. Amongst all other developments, I think that large format print technology has perhaps had the greatest impact to date. Advances in printers, inks and substrates have unleashed a whole new set of creative possibilities that simply weren’t possible a few years ago.
Perhaps the next decade will see 3D printing leaving its mark on the industry. It is still in its infancy, but additive construction is an emerging technology that’s already being used to experimentally print structures in concrete. The moment when we can design a stand and then click on “print” are probably more than ten years away, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it.
Display technology has already exploded beyond people’s wildest imaginings and it’s very hard to speculate where it could go from here. Entire stands are being built out of high-resolution display screens and at a recent exhibition in Singapore, there was one screen that stretched to a length of 120 metres! Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will find a place, and as they improve I think that AR in particular, could have real practical uses.
ESSA’s next decade will be as challenging as the last and our sector will need more people to choose exhibitions and events as a career, particularly on the contracting side. To that end, ESSA has begun a collaboration with the only degree level design course specifically aimed at exhibitions at The University of Lincoln, and we’ll be asking members to follow our lead in visiting schools and colleges to tell them about the exhibitions industry, and just how rewarding and varied their careers in it can be.

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