Interview with Stan Kruss, Chief Executive Officer, Expo Centric.
What does it mean to you to be a 2020 Winner in the World Exhibition Stand Awards?
It amazing to be recognised on a global level, especially when looking at all our international peers and exhibition houses that are 10, 20 or 50 times the size of any company in Australia. Coming from this relatively small Australian market and being able to hold our own by designing and delivering stands equal to anything on the world stage is an astounding achievement.
What changes have you implemented during Covid-19?
COVID-19 has totally devastated the exhibition industry globally. The time we usually spend on designing and building exhibition stands has left us with space to work on improving company processes and procedures, ensuring they are the most effective for when events do return. This has been a luxury, as you never usually get time to complete these behind-the-scenes tasks. These tasks have included streamlining company processes to allow us to execute exhibitions better internally and for our clients.
The time has also allowed us to work on developing new technology. Like a lot of companies, we have worked hard to expand and strengthen our virtual offerings, as we believe these services and products will be used in a much larger capacity in the future.
We have also invested time and resources into developing and sourcing premium solutions for the Australian event and exhibition industry.
- We are now exclusive Australian distributors of the AirClad range of portable event structures
- We offer an innovative portable booth, the Telecapsule, that delivers a private and soundproof locality to connect and meet with customers
- We have developed Insyte, a virtual help desk with virtual face-to-face support
Additionally, we have implemented a number of pivots to keep our staff employed and continue trading. We created two new brands with different product lines to help serve the market both during the pandemic and after.
Expo Centric LITE
When COVID-19 hit Australia, we knew we had the facilities and machinery to create products to help businesses. Using our skilled team and manufacturing workshop we have been able to design and create a range of protection solutions and portable office furniture. These solutions were made readily available to the Australian business community through the creation of the Expo Centric LITE online shop.
· Indoor and outdoor hand sanitiser stations
· Protection screens
· Disposable and reusable face masks
· Temperature screening technology
· Hand sanitiser gel
· Portable office desk
· Stand-up desks
· Laptop stands
· Monitor stands
Even before the pandemic, our clients often needed standalone display solutions or wanted smaller modular segments of their stand they could re-use again and again. They struggled to find high quality portable displays that would work with and reflect the quality of their existing stand elements. So, we developed Exhibit Central, a convenient online portal for customers to source bespoke display solutions for national rolls outs and bulk display needs.
What changes do you expect to introduce looking ahead in stand design and experience as the events industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic?
The event and exhibition market will be different for a long time, but during the past 6 months the world has taken giant leap forwards in technology, which is here to stay.
I envisage future exhibitions stand will be hybrid. Clients will have their stands, but some key staff may attend via a video link or via live holograms, while also some visitors will physically attend exhibitions and others will join from the comfort of their own home.
The show experience will live a lot longer through the use of technology. Using technology, we can create 3D maps of the client stands, so people can ‘visit’ the stand from anywhere in the world and even after the show is completed and the stand is dismantled, it can still be viewed by customers. This allows the exhibition experience to last longer than the standard 3-4 days of a typical show.
There are unlimited opportunities to developing hybrid events. Clients could provide customers with tours their showrooms through virtual technology. Virtual factory tours could be incorporated into the exhibition experience. There will be a lot more opportunities for dynamic interactivity by incorporating technology.
The past 6 months has shown us we can work with technology to our advantage and this can enhance the exhibition experience for companies and customers.
How do you think events are going to change as a result?
The events and exhibition market will not be the same for a long time. In the short-term all events and exhibitions will come back in a different shape and form. Some events may never return, other events are going to be small, they may be merged and there will be a lot more space in the shows due to social distancing regulations. Overall, it will be a different landscape.
This will open opportunities for modified events such as road shows, retail activations and pop-up activations where brands go to their customers.
It will be a rough ride for the exhibition space for the next 3-4 years.
How are these changes going to impact on stand design?
I believe that the next few years will see stands that are technology based and cost focused.
Brands will be moving towards reusability in their structures to help reduce the costs of live marketing. We have already been helping brands design mobile showrooms, roadshows, and portable structures. The requests for modular structures have also increased. People are looking for solutions where their investment per show is less. It may take a long time for the big 6-7 figure stands start to re-appear.
Of course, we will also see a major focus on hygiene features incorporated into stands to help adhere to COVID-19 regulations and address exhibition attendee concern.
What are you most looking forward to about events returning?
The rush, the deadlines, the thrill of the ‘show’.
The fact of being able to convert a concept into reality in just a few weeks.
There is always the pressure to achieve perfection, knowing timelines are looming and the stands have to be completed by show open. Then seeing how everyone works together as team to make it all happen is thrilling and rewarding.
What does the trade show stand of the future look like?
Exhibition stands of the future will be very metric driven.
Just like companies can view and track where customers are entering their website, what they are viewing, the time spent and where they are exiting a website, exhibition stands will incorporate similar metric tracking technology.
Stands of the future will have visitor tracking, customer journey mapping, interaction point monitoring etc. This will be a valuable tool for both stand builders and clients, helping to improve stand design and ROI.
Who’s been your lockdown hero?
Without a question, my staff.
I think that everyone has the option of when everything is going pear shape, do you walk away and quit or stick it out? There are plenty of opportunities to make an income in the short term, whether it is working in hospitality, working in a warehouse or packing shelves.
The vast majority of my staff choose to work harder than ever on much lower wages. And during this time developed and invented new products and move into new markets.
Their ability, grit and passion to innovate and find new ways to keep going Expo Centric trading has been humbling and will lead us to thrive on the other side of this pandemic.