Showlite’s MD on meeting industry challenges with constant innovation

Posted on Thu 18th Apr 2019 at 9:02am

Paul Slaney, managing director of Showlite, on the positive challenge of trying to do more with less.

If there’s one thing an event and exhibition supplier knows, it’s what constitutes an ideal world. Our ideal world would have 21-day build-up and breakdown slots, floor plans agreed and fixed months in advance, and an international response team to prevent volcanoes from erupting, rivers from flooding and drones from causing chaos to international travel plans.

Of course, the world is far from perfect, and we recognise that our ideals are going to be quite different from other peoples’. In the absence of this utopia, supplying events, whether that’s space-only builds for exhibitors or shell scheme for an entire exhibition, requires a portfolio of skills, techniques and practices to be able to cope with rapid and radical changes, unforeseen circumstances, and the most likely event ‘niggles’.

These skills and techniques are what define the well-established, successful, event suppliers. They’ve been hard won through years of experience of delivering exhibitor satisfaction. That experience confers flexibility and agility, and the kind of background knowledge and understanding that is required when, there are last minute floor plan changes, an airport closes or there’s a power cut.

Timing is all important, so sequencing and logistics need to be very carefully worked out. The slightest hiccup can cause a pile-up further down the schedule, so it’s essential to keep an ever-present eye on timings. When things do go awry, and they often do simply because of issues like traffic, you need to have alternatives and options ready to go.

Fundamentally, the practical challenges of creating successful events need to be met with partnership

In common with the rest of the business world, there’s the constant pressure to ‘do more with less’. It might sound like a contradiction, but it is actually a positive challenge. We recognise that the more customer satisfaction we can deliver per pound spent, the better position we are in to win more business. The difficulty is that we can’t simply carve chunks off our margins – we need to innovate, and we need to innovate all the time.

From new shell scheme systems to the wholesale adoption of low wattage LED lighting, it’s crucial for event suppliers to follow innovations closely, and pinpoint any technologies, products or systems that can help us deliver more for less cost. Innovation in sustainability is going to become a large part of this in the future, as more and more businesses discover the cost of waste.

On a crude level, sustainability means reducing waste, recycling and reusing, which make excellent economical as well as environmental sense. At Showlite we recycle 100 per cent of the carpet we deploy, and much of the shell scheme too. Where metalwork is damaged, we recycle it into smaller functional pieces, cutting out only damaged sections. The more costs we can ameliorate through our sustainable practices, the more resources we can deploy on behalf of exhibitors and organisers.

The show floor presents its own set of challenges. A lot of these problems can be easily avoided or solved in-situ by being ready for them, building in agile thinking and thorough contingency planning.

We understand the problems, especially during build-up and breakdown times. Too much access control can result in delays and time overruns, while not enough access control can put an event at risk.

Fundamentally, the practical challenges of creating successful events need to be met with partnership, teamwork and trust. Resolving many of the practical challenges presented by events will always need to be a collaborative effort.

Read the story in Exhibition News 

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“The onsite team is always happy to co-operate with the inevitable last minute changes.”
Natasha Messer, Events Operations Manager, Prospects Events
“Showlite deliver exceptionally high levels of personal service. I know that I can rely on them to deliver throughout all aspects of the pre-planning, build and onsite work”
Mark Mayo, Director, Motorcycle Expo
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Mirabelle Chatterjee, Head of Operations, Nineteen Events
“We had the pleasure of having Showlite as part of our event team. The staff took the time, care and attention required to make sure that our exhibitors and us as organisers felt valued and looked after”
Diane Sheppard, Event Operations Manager, Quartz Business Media
“Over 1,200 exhibitors, almost 4 miles of aisle carpet plus enough shell scheme to cover two football pitches and it was the easiest get in we have ever had. Quite exceptional”
Andrew Reed, Managing Director, William Reed Business Media
“Showlite worked diligently with great speed to complete the build in the allocated time. We look forward to working with them at our next show”
Karen Harris, Operations Manager, Idex Media
“Showlite have worked hand in hand with us, investing in design, stock and materials developing an innovative product for our customers”
Bill Hammond, Managing Director, 3rd Street Group
“It has been a pleasure to work with Showlite who provided a seamless delivery both presite and onsite.”
Paul Clarke, Organiser, Installer Live
“My sincerest thanks go out to all Showlite staff who played an invaluable part in what seemed the impossible task. It goes without saying that I would not hesitate in recommending their services to others.”
Phil Valentine, Managing Director, ETES, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics
“I can honestly say one of the smoothest builds I have ever experienced on an event in over 17 years”
Nicola Greenaway, Managing Director, Nineteen Events
“We have a longstanding relationship with Showlite. They demonstrate a real professionalism and dedication and I look forward to working with the team again!”
Hannah Webb, Head of Operations, Hemming Group
“A massive thank you for helping us make this year’s Hearth & Home Exhibition a success. ”
Claire Cox, Hearth & Home, Fireplace Marketing Company
“Thanks to everyone at Showlite for a job very well done at The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair! The event went beyond expectation and there were hardly any glitches at all.”
Ingrid Nilson, Director, The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited
“I really appreciated the positive attitude of your team and the willingness to support unexpected problem situations onsite. It has been a great pleasure working with you both!”
Joy-Fleur Brettschneider, Marketing & Operations Director, Solar Media Limited
“Thank you so much for all your support on PATS this year. Showlite were absolutely brilliant. ”
Jo Scotting, Head of Operations, Impact Exhibitions
“We always know we’re in a safe pair of hands with Showlite. They deliver professional results with attention to detail and focus on service.”
Jo Foreman, Operations Manager, Brintex
“I would recommend Showlite completely from the level of personal service, quality of work and positive work attitude to keep on going until the job is done.”
Emma Barratt, Managing Director, Broadway Events
“Thank you for all your help and support for the NFE show. We had a lot of last minute changes, and Showlite were very accommodating and professional.”
Angela Long, Sales and Marketing Executive, Wesley Media
“Many thanks to Showlite. Everything went really smoothly and the show looked absolutely fantastic.”
Mandie Lavin, CEO, NAFD
“Phex has never looked as good and the build-up and breakdown went really smoothly. Thanks to everyone. I look forward to be working with you again in the future.”
Julie Pollet, Operations Manager, Brintex
“Showlite are the ultimate in prior planning and preparation. We never have any problem and if we do have an issue we resolve it there and then. We love working with Showlite.”
Andrew Reed, MD, William Reed Events & Exhibitions
“Big thank you to Showlite … once again it was a pleasure working with you all again and look forward to 2018!”
Sam Hunt, NMBS Events Manager
“Many thanks for the brilliant job you did on this year’s UKIVA which was a great success. The team pulled out all the stops to make sure everything was ready in time and ran smoothly throughout the day.”
Christine Valdes, Event Organiser, UKIVA, PPMA Group
“We would like to thank you and the team for an excellent build and all your help in the move to Mall Galleries after 25 years. ”
Gay Hutson, Founder and organiser, 20/21 British Art Fair
“The event looked great and the help and advice from Showlite throughout was invaluable. ”
Toby Merigan, Founder, European Sport Fishing Show
“Thank you for being a magnificent partner to Highways UK. Love the Showlite can do attitude and the smiles and personality that come with it.”
Andrew Dowding, Managing Director, Essential Infrastructure Events
“We have had excellent feedback from exhibitors and visitors and this is testament to the excellent partnership we have with Showlite.”
Justine Devereux, Operations & Project Manager, Xmark Media Ltd
“It was great to have Jenni onsite as it really makes a difference having her help to co-ordinate all aspects of the project.”
Joel Swarc, Associate Director, Promotor Events Ltd
“I would like to highlight the outstanding performance of Ross Isolda during the build up of the recent Foodex show at the NEC. I would like to thank him - and the boys on the tools also, for making the whole process as smooth as it was considering the challenge. ”
Phil Birch, Team leader, NEC mains services, NEC

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