Interview With Mark Fletcher

Name: Mark Fletcher

Company: RTH plc

Job Title: Design Director

What does it mean to you to be a 2020 Finalist in the World Exhibition Stand Awards?

After seeing the high standard of work delivered by 2019’s finalists, we are extremely honoured to be a finalist this year. It is a humbling experience to be recognised by our peers. Although rare for RTH to enter any awards, we carefully considered what these would mean to us and our clients.

Our team go above and beyond for our clients, so it’s great for them to be recognised in such a competitive marketplace. And it will encourage and inspire us to push the boundaries even further in the future. We pride ourselves on the relationships and trust we build with our clients. And we hope this recognition demonstrates to them our determination to continue to meet our own high standards.

What are the big trends in exhibition stand design?

Sustainable solutions are moving higher up the agenda. They feature prominently in the conversations we have internally and with clients. We feel it’s something the exhibition industry has to invest in and support now. So, as one part of this, introducing reusable and recyclable materials is something we will definitely see more of.

We’ve seen that clients now engage more in understanding the importance of delivering bespoke audio-visual (AV) content and its application in attracting, engaging and informing visitors. This trend will continue to grow.

What has been the best innovation of the past 5 years?

It’s very subjective but I’d lead with AV and kit system integration, and the ability of kit system suppliers to accommodate bespoke requirements. The refinement and accessibility of AV has meant large scale video walls, floors and features are now commonplace. The versatility and seamless solutions they offer has rapidly improved over the past five years. It will be interesting to see how they will continue to develop in the next five.

However, there is a lot going on. And if you spoke to another designer on my team they may pick something else, like the ability to share your experiences through social media and custom-created apps for instance.

What are clients currently asking for in stand and experience design?

We are also asked to create more experiential design, aiming to give a memorable exhibition experience. This allows for some creative and dynamic exhibition design that really stands out above the competition who repeat their usual set pieces. Creating an experiential journey which supports the corporate character can reinforce brand perception and stand out to become the talk of the show when done right.

It’s become more common to be asked for more informal – but still high quality – business hospitality. As well as flexible exhibition spaces: spaces that will serve as a lounge and relaxed seating, but also for making public announcements, and even showcasing performances – all depending on the needs of the day.

There’s the age-old theme of cost efficiencies – our clients understandably always want their budgets to work harder. We’re constantly researching new and different materials and build techniques that can be used to not only set our clients apart but to also offer budget reductions.

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

Of course digital is important and to make a mark you normally need to incorporate creative use of digital elements into your stand. So AV is used much more and emerging tech like mixed reality is increasingly coming into play. But exhibitions give you a platform to interact face-to-face with businesses and those who represent them, as well as letting them interact with products or services first hand. And this is something that the digital world cannot offer.

With certain industries where a physical marketplace or shop doesn’t exist, an exhibition acts as a proxy for these. So for the clients we work with, this person-to-person platform is vital.

Information regarding products and services is easily accessible digitally. But it is through personal engagement where information is truly understood or believed. Businesses rely on these relationships which are formed at such exhibitions and the physical space they take. From informal networking to confidential negotiations. Digital tools can support this rather than replace them.

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

Yes, in the sectors in which they directly impact on brand performance. And especially for business to business. Take world-famous exhibitions like CES, Baselworld, the Farnborough Air Show and the Geneva Motor Show which attract thousands of visitors each year as examples. From a client point of view, exhibitions enable person-to-person engagement and promote new and exciting products and services. Exhibitions really bring many marketing channels together, allowing businesses a unique opportunity to showcase almost everything in one place whilst being able to do business.

The benefits of exhibitions both in terms of establishing brand presence and economic growth – means that the demand for them will always be there. They offer such unique experiences and memorable marketing opportunities that cannot be replicated in the same way by other channels.

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

The large motor shows are stunning, with impactful designs. It was such a shame that the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled. I did not see it in person, but Audi at the Frankfurt Motor
Show really grabbed my attention. The sheer scale allowed the visitors to be taken on a real journey and be part of the Audi story. They also invest heavily in lighting and illuminating their products in a really considered way. Beyond that, the focus on sustainability in the future and turning the visitors into communicators worked incredibly well.

If you could change one thing about the world of exhibitions what would it be?

Without a doubt it would be to make the industry more sustainable. This includes reducing the carbon footprint of the events themselves and increasing re-use throughout the whole supply chain.

In our projects, RTH works hard to consider our environmental impact in all aspects of our business. Even though we are ISO14001 accredited and are very mindful of designing out waste and promoting a circular economy, there is always more that can be done. Even small changes can make a difference.

Does stand size matter?

Ultimately a successful stand can be created no matter what the size. But stand size should be considered as an important factor when assessing a client’s objectives.

Beyond the physical aspect of accommodating rooms, furniture, storage, product displays etc. there has to be consideration of visitor flow and amongst other things the performance of AV to its audience. This means that for a stand to truly perform, its size needs to accommodate more than just its physical requirements.

This doesn’t always mean bigger is better. You can successfully fulfil your objectives with smaller exhibition spaces, where a balance of brand communication and personal interaction is key. Some of the most successful smaller stands I have seen at shows have epitomised simplicity done well.