Interview with Jeremy Rees , CEO , Excel London

1) How international is the exhibition industry becoming?


I believe that our industry represents a truly global sector. Events are a driving force for international commerce and trade and remain one of the most effective ways of raising brand awareness.


In today’s digital world, the one thing that technology can’t replace is face-to-face interaction. Events provide the best opportunity from people all over the world, to come together, to make new connections, forge meaningful relationships and to learn about and experience new products and services.


Our industry represents a dynamic, creative, world class sector and is a leading catalyst for business tourism. In the UK alone, it drives £11.5bn of economic impact annually and is responsible for attracting, entertaining and engaging 13 million visitors each year. Events hosted at ExCeL bring together over 4 million people and are responsible for driving 25% of London’s inbound business tourists.


2) What is driving this internationalisation?


As we all know, we are living through unprecedented political, economic and social change. I believe, this is driving even more of a need for people, from across the world, to come together, to meet, exchange ideas and do business.


London’s unique global position makes it a natural meeting point and a great destination for events. The city is open for business, with a time zone and language that enables trade on a truly global scale. When you bring your event to London, you are instantly within easy reach of inspirational speakers, new business partners and a talent pool of 14 million people, working in world leading sectors, from technology and fintech to finance and life sciences.


In addition, with continued investment in transport infrastructure, it has also become increasingly easy for people to travel to every corner of the globe. When the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) opens, it will be even easier for people to access our venue. We will have the ability to transport thousands of visitors from Heathrow in 43-minutes, right to our front door.


3) How are exhibitions and stand design staying relevant in a digital world?


Today, our industry faces the challenge of competing with new ways of presenting, accessing and absorbing content, with a pressure on us to convince customers to take time out of their busy schedules to attend an event.


Gone are the days where you opened the doors and they shall come. Now we must seek new ways to communicate and engage with our customers by delivering truly meaningful and innovative events.


In terms of stand design, I think it’s increasingly important for exhibitors to consider the experience they want to deliver. They need to create the right environment to attract buyers, thinking about how they would like them to interact with their brand, ensuring they deliver a great return on their investment.


From the customer journey to providing the right tools for engagement, technology and content, we’ve seen companies who really want to push the boundaries to ensure that their presence at events delivers a great experience.


4) Do exhibitions get the status they deserve versus other marketing channels?


We believe that events are a vital part of the marketing and communications mix but don’t always get the recognition that they deserve. We need to continue to promote that exhibitions are a catalyst for economic growth, driving billions of pounds of import and export activity.


For our part, we will continue to work with London to ensure that the Capital remains a world-leading destination for events. We want to ensure that we continue to attract the very best, world leading events, which, if we succeed, will result in investment, jobs and economic growth – importantly at no cost to the public purse.

We start from a position of strength, but we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. We must redouble our efforts, working with key partners and stakeholders, to leverage the fantastic opportunity our industry provides.


5) What’s the best exhibition stand or event you’ve seen in the last year?


It’s really difficult to pick just one! We work with such a variety of people to deliver a diverse range of events and experiences. I love walking through the venue and continuingly being surprised and excited by the events that I see.


We go from welcoming over 100,000 ComicCon fans to 35,000 cardiologists, with over a million international visitors each year. It’s a dynamic environment where every single day innovation, ideas and moments happen that can change people’s lives.


A recent team achievement, that I am particularly proud of, is the announcement that ExCeL, and the Royal Docks will host the UK ABB FIA Formula E Championship from July 2020. To start a one-year countdown, we’ve placed a brand activation in our main entrance. This will help to position ExCeL as the new home of Formula E in the UK. It allows fan engagement with the Formula E brand, by housing several activations including, interactive displays, a journey experience (designed to keep people up to date with all things FE) and social media opportunities.