SUPPLIER SOLUTIONS: Staying on schedule - Exhibition contractors are used to solving problems on site, but many believe these last-minute headaches can be avoided. Jane Stanbridge looks at the best way to keep calm at build-up time

Showlite business development manager Ken Sangster blames lack of attention to the exhibitor's manual, but he says most issues can be avoided by developing a good relationship with contractors and 'sorting out any special issues in advance'.

Showlite keeps a database of clients at a particular exhibition to anticipate specific requirements in advance of the next show. Sangster stresses the importance of having a single contact within the exhibiting company who is able to provide a rapid response to queries.

With so much high-tech equipment on stands, it is little surprise that this area is where many on-site problems occur. However, Edric Audio Visual sales and marketing director John Dalgarno says the technical aspects are usually pretty straightforward. He believes the most common problems are: holes not being made the right size to accommodate equipment, the angle of the projector, ambient light distracting from special audio-visual effects, poor access to equipment, and poor ventilation of equipment leading to overheating.

Designers having all the necessary information from equipment suppliers can avoid these problems. This may involve borrowing the equipment in advance of the show.

Using a flooring system that has few under-floor restrictions avoids most of the problems associated with traditionally built exhibition stand platforms, according to Expo Floors' Crutchely. 'Last-minute changes are more easy to accommodate with this system,' he says, 'but our biggest problems occur when we don't have full, up-to-date information in advance of the show'.

Geologistics managing director David Richards says: 'Freight and on-site handling of exhibits and displays are often the last considerations. If we have time, we can offer many transport solutions, but the later exhibitors leave it, the fewer options that are available, and the cost can increase quite dramatically.'

Richards recommends using an exhibition freight forwarding specialist rather than a normal carrier as the specialist knows the business and 'will go the extra mile to make sure that deadlines are met'.

Late ordering is not always a problem, as long as exhibitors are prepared to have less choice. Melville Floral Services operations manager Alan Johnson says his company carries some stock to site for those who wish to see their stand complete, before making a decision on floral arrangements.

Melville prints a helpline number on its catalogue, which Johnson says helps sort out most issues before exhibitors get to site.



Most stands come with a package of electrical supply per sqm. Each exhibition will have a different price list for additional services and prices will vary depending on the venue, and the type and size of show.


Catalogues are included in the exhibition manual. The stand objectives should determine the choice of furniture - bum bars and high stools encourage high visitor turnover, while comfy arm-chairs are meant for longer discussions.


Generally, all floral arrangements ordered from a floral contractor are on hire. Prices start at about pounds 7.50 for a small plant. Arrangements can be ordered on site, but with a more limited selection than the catalogue shows.

Carpets and platform

Exhibitors should budget about pounds 15 to pounds 20 per square foot for a combined system floor and velour carpet package.


Stands regularly feature projection systems, plasma screens, video, computers, DVD, sound systems, lighting systems, and interactive touch-screens, which can all be centrally controlled. Prices start at about pounds 175 a day for an LCD/video data projector, or pounds 250 a day for a 42-inch plasma screen.


Air freight can be double the price of sea freight, so early decisions about transporting a stand abroad are critical.


There are three principle associations in the exhibition world, Exhibition Venues Association (EVA), Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO, and British Exhibition Contractors' Association (BECA). It is the latter to which the majority of contractors working in the UK's exhibition halls belong. BECA President Andrew Manby (right) says a contractor's membership of BECA offers reassurance to the exhibitor because members must provide evidence of appropriate insurance cover; members must satisfy BECA on health and safety procedures and; a guarantee bond ensures that if a BECA contractor fails to provide the contracted service as a result of financial difficulties, another BECA contractor will be brought in.

Anyone that contacts BECA can be provided with a full list of members, or exhibitors can go to

Tel: 020 8543 3888


Firbank Kempster Operations Manager, Phill Morrish explains how to avoid problems during a stand build-up:

- Read the rules and regulations and design within them, or obtain approvals before committing to production costs.

- Provide information to your supplier in good time.

- Avoid surcharges by confirming key dates for site services with contractors.

- Draw up a production schedule, including site installation and work to it.

- Take all paperwork to the site. Having copies of approvals and orders to hand can save arguments and time.

- Be specific with materials - 'blue laminate' is not good enough. Provide samples where possible.

- Build a relationship with your suppliers. The best results come from being able to discuss your requirements, not from a cold set of drawings.

- Where relevant, encourage dialogue between different services - where one company is providing the walling to sit on another company's double-deck structure, for example. You don't want to be sorting out mismatches on site.

- View as much of the construction as possible in the workshop, including graphics, prior to installation.


- BECA, 36 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1RQ. Tel: 020 8543 3888

- Melville Floral Services, Pheasant Walk Nurseries, Birmingham Road, Roxall, North Warwickshire CV35 7NN.

Tel: 01926 484792

- Firbank Kempster, Brandmarque House, 2 High St, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5AE.

Tel: 01276 453544

- Presentation Services, Unit 2, 41 Humber Road, London NW2 6EN. Tel: 020 8208 7100

- Showlite, Unit 4, Sopwith Park, Royce Close, Andover, Hants SP10 3TS.

Tel: 01264 365550

- Expo Floors, 65 Cheston Road, Aston, Birmingham, B7 5EA. Tel: 0121 326 0100

- Edric Audio Visual, 1 Eagleswood Business Park, Woodlands Lane, Bristol BS32 4EU. Tel: 01454 201313

- Geologistics, Unit 18, Third Exhibition Avenue, NEC B40 1PJ. Tel: 0800 622127

- Opex Exhibition Services, Exhibition Centre, Warwick Road, London SW5 9TA. Tel: 020 7370 8085

- Joe Manby, 51-53 East Parade, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, NG1 5LQ.

Tel: 01423 506191.

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