Intelligent design

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An event such as Mobile World Congress presents significant challenges in terms of size, nature and creativity. But just how do events suppliers respond to the challenges set?

Mobile World Congress is one of the key global events for the mobile communications industry. In 2011 MWC is expecting around 50,000 senior mobile leaders from 200 countries to attend the four-day event held in Barcelona between February 14-17.

In what is undeniably a highly dynamic market where technology evolves at a breathtaking speed, the Congress aims to provide a world-class thought leadership conference featuring visionary keynotes and action-provoking panel discussions, an exhibition with more than 1,300 companies displaying the cutting-edge products and technology that will define the mobile future, a larger App Planet – the new Centre of the Apps Universe, an awards programme that highlights the most innovative mobile solutions from around the world and most importantly, a forum for the mobile industry to network and discover new business opportunities.

With an exhibition that includes more than 1,300 exhibitors whose stands cover an area of more than 140,000 square metres displaying the latest technologies and innovative products it presents clients, exhibition stand designer and service suppliers with a substantial canvas upon which to paint a creative masterpiece that will show their products and their capability.

Clearly an event of this size presents huge opportunities to all creative services suppliers but how do two successful companies with numerous clients at the show ensure that levels of quality, creativity and delivery standards are maintained, and how do they see this contributing the overall success and quality of the show?

Pete Allen and Oliver Richardson look at the challenges and benefits of working at scale in such a large event from the perspective of designing and building exhibition stands at the show and being an official supplier of services.

Pete Allen, managing director of 4D Design, which has 14 clients with stands at the show ranging from 17.5 square metres to 400, for clients from seven countries including the UK, US, Canada, France, Israel and India has firm opinions regarding the benefits of scale:

“There are both benefits and challenges facing any company that seeks to deliver a consistently high quality across a large group of exhibition stands at a single show when each will have different objectives. But I do not see why there should be any compromise in either the creativity or the quality of work provided for each one of them. Key to delivering the best result for each and every client, no matter how large or small, is intelligent design that does not compromise the unique requirements of each stand.

“A portfolio of stands at a single exhibition will exercise the creativity of any design company, it is just not acceptable to have a group of similar stands – if each brand has its own unique brand DNA then this must be clearly visible and communicated to the visitor. This challenges the design team to raise their game and strive to make each one inspirational, and a consequence of this is that it sets a standard within the show across a cohort of stands. It forces the designers to maintain high creative standards for each client because it will be obvious that the designs are similar once they are built. In fact I would go as far as to suggest that design companies that handle multiple projects in a single show, by this very fact, will improve the overall aesthetic of the show because they have to create something unique for each client.”

Allen adds: “There are practical benefits to working on multiple stands at a show, it allows a larger team of personnel to be on site during build up and breakdown. They may be dedicated to one or two stands but they are available and can be called upon should the need arise. Again, once a critical mass has been reached it is easier to have specialists within the teams, rather than externally sourced, who can serve multiple stands.”

Allen concludes: “If it is just one stand at a show or 30 they should all receive the same degree of commitment from their designers and receive a great stand, but in this case scale really does deliver significant benefits.”

Oliver Richardson, sales and marketing director for DB Systems, the IT and AV rental company, says the provision of quality service goes hand-in-hand with planning.

He said: “DB Systems will be the official AV supplier for the 2011 Mobile World Congress for the fifth consecutive year. DB was appointed as a result of feedback from last year’s event, when the show organiser asked exhibitors which of the official contractors they would want to work with again at the 2011 event. DB was one of the select number of companies chosen to return.

“We have been able to maintain this high standard of quality and creativity, as well as service delivery, as a result of proper planning. The old adage ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’ springs to mind. We began planning for MWC around 10 months ago, from doing recess of the site and buying the right equipment, to booking the best crew in the industry.

“A lot of our best work is achieved when manage the majority of IT & AV at a show since we are able to plan and allocate resources from an early stage. As the event draws near, we’ll inevitable receive more requests and orders, which will be catered for. As an ESSA member, DB is set up to ensure standards are maintained.”

Richardson adds that while planning is crucial, so is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. “It used to be quite common for companies to avoid wanting to hire from the official contractor because of the misplaced view that the contractors were too busy to deal with such requests. But in today’s industry, the best contractors are flexible and can adapt to customers’ needs. At Mobile World Congress, we will effectively set up mobile offices on-site to manage all projects and deal with any unplanned situations that may arise.

“We know through experience that some exhibitors will inevitably leave IT and AV right to the last minute, so we’ll be prepared to supply the display systems, cables, and lap tops that may have been overlooked by exhibitors.

“Ultimately, the work done by DB and other contractors will inevitably contribute to the show’s success. By supplying the right kit, to the right place, at the right time, we can help the organiser stage a successful show, which can ultimately encourages companies to return next year.”