Interview with Chris Litchfield,
Creative Director, Rapiergroup
What does it mean to you to be a 2020 Winner in the World Exhibition Stand Awards?
To me, it adds some real authenticity to our achievements. We strive to create the best and most innovative solutions for our clients. We trust our process, our skills, experience and instincts, but the recognition that comes from being a winner in the World Exhibition Stand Awards is confirmation of what we believe in. It’s good to be recognised externally, and it makes all of the Rapiergroup team and our clients feel good about what we have achieved.
What changes have you implemented during Covid-19?
We literally adapted overnight to completely remote working. Fortunately, we had invested in the technology that meant all of us could do our jobs perfectly all through lockdown. We make a real effort to connect and collaborate with each other through the opportunities available to us, and I think we have all sharpened up our communication skills. None of us have suffered as a result of the new ways of working, but we have now got to a point where we would like to see each other face-to-face. Teams and Zoom is no replacement for the real thing!
What changes do you expect to introduce looking ahead in stand design and experience as the events industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic?
Covid-19 is here to stay. It isn’t going to just go away, and this has big implications for us and the way we approach stand design and experiences. We have lots of different ideas on how we could design environments and experiences, but each situation will need to be approached as bespoke and unique. Defining strategy for user/visitor experience from the outset will be more important than ever before. From that design will be about meeting the objectives of that strategy, and doing it safely and within whatever restrictions we need to work to.
How do you think events are going to change as a result?
Events are going to have to become more hybrid, and that should be the normal model for the future. For the foreseeable we are going to be living in a world of regional outbreaks of Covid-19, local lockdowns, government imposed and corporate travel restrictions, strict limitations on large scale physical gatherings, etc. This means that less people are going to be able to travel to and attend large events. But this doesn’t mean that people should miss out. All events should offer valuable experiences for physical and virtual attendees alike. The potential here is truly exciting, and if we are honest, it’s the way the industry should be heading anyway. A hybrid event model can offer the best in terms of physical face-to-face experiences, the scale of which may well be reduced from what has come before. But there is an opportunity for a much wider reach to a truly global audience. It can be a much more sustainable model, and something that will meet the needs of future generations. There are opportunities for operating events within local regions, and then harnessing technology in order to bring them all together, to make something bigger. The potential here is enormous, and genuinely exciting. I really think it is the future for our industry.
How are these changes going to impact on stand design?
Stand designs will need to be fit for our future industry. There may be no place for just designing a typical stand. We will need to think cleverly about the true purpose of each stand we design, and the experience it must offer. We will then need to create designs that deliver on that, but working within whatever restrictions we are facing. I think that simplicity in design will be the key to this (easier said than done!) What is really interesting is the implications of a hybrid event model on stand design. In the future, we shouldn’t just be designing for the physical exhibition hall experience. We should be designing environments that need to be fit for a much wider reach than that. The potential for really interesting creative challenges and design solutions here is very exciting.
What are you most looking forward to about events returning?
In truth, I am looking forward to things being different. The challenges we face are solvable, and I’m looking forward to embracing them. I think that what we face now will forge the future for the events model in the future. I’m looking forward to working with talented creative people and redefining our future. Despite the big hit our industry has encountered, we have the opportunity to make something better as a result of it.
What does the trade show stand of the future look like?
I have different thoughts and feelings on this, and there isn’t one answer. All I can say is that I hope that a lot of trade show stands will be different. We need to think carefully about the purpose of stands, we need to think more about the bigger picture and where a stand sits within a wider customer/user/visitor experience. And then we need to deal with the physical environment we are operating in, and a global situation that is continually changing. The trade show stand can still be a sound investment that offers tangible, valuable and relevant expereinces, but it’s time for us to really challenge ourselves on why and how we create them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Never try to understand other people’s relationships’. It has nothing to do with events and exhibitions, but it is definitely the best piece of advice I have ever been given!