In 1992 Keith and Suzanne Milan set up his exhibition stand business from the back of a garage. Now celebrating 25 years Expositionists, in its own premises in Welwyn Garden City continues to flourish with their two sons Toby and Dan now running the business. We took a look at how exhibitions and the stands have changed over time.
So how have stands changed over time?
When Keith started the business, modular stands were the main product in the marketplace. Often requiring some assistance to put together, there was a set of colours available
for the client to choose from, with additional graphic panels for branding.
All stands were fairly similar in shape, albeit the size changed. “Stands were big and bulky and very angular. They were designed for the company, not the visitor” Toby noted.
Early photos show how foliage was a big part of stands and gimmicks were used from an early stage, whether that was racing boats around a stand, fairground grabbers or finding the right key to unlock a door.
Stands were boosted with printed ceilings, light boxes and rotating graphics.
Towards the late nineties, Expo seized the opportunity to differentiate themselves. Customers were increasingly demanding more flexibility and new designs that showed off their own personalities.
The market was changing and Expo took a bold move away from modular stands to create completely bespoke custom-built stands for their clients.
“Now we could cut any shape and use very specific lighting and technology to create the look we want”. Dan commented. “From big beams of high voltage lights, we’ve now moved to low voltage LEDs, which are more flexible, cheaper and better for the environment. With the technology we have, we can now bring a stand to life, so that our client can visualise the stand before it’s built.
As the bespoke stands were introduced, they became more about the visitor. Companies moved away from the ‘we have messages we want to tell you’ to what do you want to see, what will interest you as a visitor?” Essentially stands have now transformed into destinations.
How have the exhibitions themselves changed over time?
Previously exhibitors relied on the organisers to drive people to their stand. Now it’s all about the wider communication plan for a company. Pre, during and post-show communications are key, with social media playing a critical role. “The key to success lies in the pre-event marketing,” says Toby. “Despite the technology we have to make us more efficient, our time is precious. We need to see the value of attending a show and visiting a stand”.
So what were Keith’s final reflections on the last 25 years? “It’s always been a very rewarding Business. Every day there’s something different. Bringing a concept to life, and seeing it built before your eyes is something that you don’t get every day in most lines of work. But for me, it’s all about the service. We pride ourselves on the service we give and this is what keeps our clients coming back”.
Have you had experience as an exhibitor? How do you think exhibitions have changed over time?