Richard Bartlett, MD and Creative Director, Evolve Creative Solutions.

Richard Bartlett, MD and Creative Director, Evolve Creative Solutions.

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

Being a multi WESA 2020 winner means a great deal to me personally as the Evolve MD and Creative Director. This year the awards have come out at a tough time for the Events Sector so this has given the entire company a real boost. What’s great is that they show the sheer diversity and talent not only here at Evolve, but also across the entire industry. 

What really makes this special is that our THQ Nordic Stand at Gamescom 2019 picked up such a diverse set of top awards from; Best Storytelling to Best Stand at a Games Industry Event and Best Stand 201-500m2. What this tells me is that we were really in-tune with both the creative intent of THQ Nordic’s Game Titles and most importantly what the target audience at the show wanted to see and experience. 

What changes have you implemented during Covid-19?

Like the rest of the UK, our teams are currently working from home and so we have had to quickly adapt all of our management structures and day to day work patterns to adjust to this new landscape.

It has been a real challenge to change the way we work so quickly; daily zoom calls and on-line meetings are now the norm, but we have found that keeping the communication levels high with our staff, suppliers and clients has really paid dividends and I actually think we will come out of this pandemic as a more efficient and effective company.

We have also used the down-time as a brilliant opportunity to research and diversify our creative knowledge and we’ve reached out to some amazing new companies so I can see lots of positives there!

Of course there is no ignoring the fact that the global events industry is really struggling right now and we have started working closely with ESSA, AEO and AEV to support Project Confidence which is all about creating a roadmap for the safe re-opening of our event halls.

What changes do you expect to introduce looking ahead in stand design and experience as the events industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic?

As the events industry recovers from Covid19 we expect major changes to stand design and planning. Right now differing countries and regions are all developing their own unique set of guidelines for event gatherings so I anticipate new design and build regulations for each individual show hall. Of course there is no guarantee that the guidelines will be consistent across each region which is going to be very challenging to global companies like Evolve. 

I think we can expect big changes to everything from basic event hall access, build and breakdown regulations, visitor numbers, stand access, catering, even the types and format of product display. 

The changes really will be far reaching and they will present a very real challenge to stand design…We have to find ways to merge the creative and retail focus of a stand with the new reduced level of social interaction and still make visitors want to come to the show! 

How do you think events are going to change as a result? 

I think there is a short term and long term answer to this question. Obviously right now we are seeing a move towards digital events, with the extreme restrictions on social interaction forcing organisers down this route. As the lock-down eases and social distancing rules are relaxed, I think we will see much more diversification and attendance choice. 

In the short term we are going to see monitored visitor numbers, dedicated hygiene points, thermal entrance scanning and controlled visitor flow but what is exciting is the potential for innovation and the expansion of events as they diversify into a mix of virtual and physical event offerings that will benefit clients and visitors.

Long term we will,of course, get back to the amazing physical events with full social interaction which is what we all want and our clients demand, but I think Covid-19 has changed the event landscape forever and potentially for the better?

How are these changes going to impact on stand design?

Currently we are seeing a lot of differing directives coming from the event halls and the regulations are being updated weekly, so the real impact on stand design is hard to predict. Right now I think we are looking at quite a large number of safety protocols, like registration of all visitors, wider aisles, clear one way routing, floor markings and the inclusion of hygiene zones with face masks. The emphasis is on minimising human contact so one of the biggest challenges for our design team is going to be the development of presentation areas that avoid large numbers of people and allow for screen guards between activities.

All of these protacols can easily be incorporated into a design, but what won’t change in stand design is the need for clarity from the venues, client understanding and development leadtimes that allow us to integrate these elements succesfully into the stand design. 

What are you most looking forward to about events returning?

In short – the safegurding of our company and sector! 

Covid-19 effectively brought our entire industry to a complete stop in March this year and like all of colleagues and partners we may not undertake another show until late 2020 as the event halls start to re-open! It is important to remember that the events industry bring over £70bn to the UK economy and employs more than 600k people, so seeing the halls open again and my stands going up will be a huge relief! 

What does the trade show stand of the future look like? 

Now that is a big question as a future stand for the gaming sector will be very different than one for the aero sector for example…also how far in the future are we looking? What I can say is that I believe that physical and virtual technology is going to merge and drive every aspect of future stand design. Increasingly we are pushing to create more and more immersive brand experiences, moving stands away from traditional retail models. I can only see this trend gaining pace and I can honestly see a time where a stand will be more like a multi sensory step into a companies brand, its values and product offer.

One thing Covid-19 has shown us is that people are desperate for human interaction and we can only assume that trade show stands still have a great future!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

If someone gives you lined paper – write the other way!