Indoor Events: Masters of the interior

Whether staging an exhibition, party or any other event under a roof, contractors tell Abigail Wills it's all down to the plan Indoor suppliers say no matter what the event, attention to detail and a practical timescale make a huge difference. But for Ross Redican, divisional director at Thorns Group's Camden Exhibition Services arm, the advantages of sourcing a company that can cover all elements of staging an event are clear.

"A turnkey service such as ours is better for small or new shows. It's far easier to deal with one contractor," he says. Last month's three-day Flora London Marathon Exhibition at Excel is the biggest event that Camden handles as a full-service supplier, providing carpets, electrics and stand-building services.

Audio Alliance director Oliver Driver agrees that a full-service company may be a sensible choice for smaller events but urges organisers to think carefully before hiring one for a large-scale event. "A jack of all trades but master of none is not ideal for all events," he warns.

The sound engineering firm, which has just completed a series of European events for fashion brand Levi's, likes to be brought in at an early stage.

This way, it can even advise on the choice of venue.

"Simple things, such as the height of the room, need to be considered," says Driver. "If it's a low room you need to check if it is possible to suspend speakers on rigging. If there isn't a power source we will need to bring in generators and costs can escalate. And if people haven't done detailed site inspections they will miss the chandelier in the middle of the room and be faced with problems later."

Stress-busting plans

Oversights are often blamed on the short lead times that organisers are working to. "It sounds obvious but the more time you allow the less stressful it will be on the day and the fewer problems you are likely to encounter," says Expo Floors director Peter Owen. "Ideally, clients should factor in a minimum of a month."

In February, Expo Floors provided 4,800 sq m of flooring for the Spring Fair at the NEC before heading down to London to fit 3,000 sq m for Hotelympia at Excel. "A lot of problems are down to customers not considering everything. If they forget to organise electrics, for example, we pitch up with a platform and are delayed while they try to sort it out at the last minute," says Owen.

Food and drink, too, has an important part to play. Janet Hoolohan, sales and marketing director at caterer Rhubarb says: "We can provide menu suggestions according to the nature of the event, the venue and the audience and we will set up client tastings," she says.

The bar can often be the focus of attention at a function, according to Simon Michel, director of professional drinks outfit London Bar Services, whose recent clients include Coca Cola, O2 and Pfizer. "Cocktails look better, taste better, and are more professional and entertaining," he says.

Colin Berry, director of audiovisual outfit CVS International, worries that clients don't always have a clear strategy. He has received briefs just days before an event because organisers have left presentation decisions to the last minute. "When thinking about plasma screens, for example, clients should already have decided if they are going to be a more integral part of the stand," he maintains.

Penny Banks & Co supplies the furniture for Clotheshow Live at the NEC, which is organised by Haymarket Exhibitions, and Emap Fashion's womenswear show Pure. The firm also furnished the sponsored bar, restaurant and lounge areas at London Fashion Week in February.

Managing director Penny Banks believes organisers could make much better use of suppliers' skills to create feature areas. "It depends on the type of event but if an exhibition is design-led this needs to be reflected in the central features, which in turn can help bring a campaign forward," she comments.

Designer Flowers' events and corporate consultant Shirley Poyntz argues that flowers can dress an area to make it more approachable and emphasise a creative theme. But others in the industry say focusing too heavily on appearance can mean other areas are left to chance.

Get involved

Dave Hampson, account manager at staffing firm Touchdown Promotions says: "People get involved in the look of the stand and suddenly realise they've forgotten to consider personnel. Ensuring temporary staff are well-briefed is important. If they are knowledgeable about the company and its products they can make clients feel special."

Many indoor suppliers have witnessed an increase in the number of end users they are dealing with directly and CVS International's Berry believes they are being called on to offer more of a project management and advisory service as a result. But there's one piece of advice on which all contractors agree - there is no substitute for good planning.

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