Exhibition News February 2019 - Page 59

COLUMN: SPECIAL OPS Devil in the detail Sital Chandarana, managing director of Event Trees, on the importance of contingency planning at every stage of a build E xperience is everything when it comes to having an impact at events. Event Trees specialises in creating environments at exhibitions that engage visitors through highly visual, tactile experiences. We use incredibly realistic trees and plants, often alongside real ones, to soften stands and spaces. Of course, it takes a lot of hard work and planning to transform an event space and a pile of props into something that can truly be described as an experience. Allow the public to be aware of that, though, and the spell is broken. And this is not just a question of execution. There’s a whole bunch of mundane stuff that event visitors don’t need to be aware of, but which is vital for success. Things like Risk Assessment Methodology Statements, insurance, health and safety. Much of this is standard industry fare and exists for all the right reasons – to ensure events are safe for exhibitors and visitors alike. But risk assessments and meticulous planning are essential for an event company like ours not just on a compliance level but also to ensure we consistently deliver the amazing experiences our clients expect from us. We have created entire forests and displays centred around a single tree. They work brilliantly in open areas such as networking zones and coffee stations as well as exhibition stands. But, just because we’re working with trees and foliage rather than display screens and networks, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to plan carefully and cover every eventuality. Builds don’t always go to plan, so the Event Trees team has to be responsive, drawing on layers of contingency planning and years of practical experience. The devil is always in the detail and it’s by sweating the small stuff that we create experiences that are so realistic and immersive. Our contingency planning strategy is simple. We think though absolutely everything that could happen while talking through the method statement for the stand build. We ask ourselves at every step what possibly could go wrong and how we would counter any problems. We research those answers and determine a contingency “From the moment you start loading or unloading the van, every little thing represents a potential risk to the success of an event” in each case, all of which is then documented on the event planning sheet so that everyone knows exactly what to do if something does go wrong, with crew briefed just before the event so everything is fresh. Putting together a solid contingency plan is as creative an exercise as developing the event concept. When working in advance, and with a clear and unfettered mind, contingency planning is a natural and positive aspect of our event plan. It helps us determine operational weaknesses and to make changes in the plan to avoid or deal with problems on site, as sometimes we only have a few hours to turn around a very complex build. Contingency planning can be a huge money saver, as a crisis during a build can get very expensive when time is tight. Events and exhibitions are hazardous environments by nature. Electricity, cables, scaffolding, special effects, bulky set props. All of this is made more challenging by constraints of space, with an event venue resembling a patchwork of mini building sites crunched up against each other. From the moment you start loading or unloading the van, every little thing represents a potential risk to the success of an event. Every piece of equipment, every tool, every prop could disappear the moment it is put down unless there is a plan for accounting for each item and ensuring it’s in the right place – and stays there. There is likely to be hundreds of different crews all trying to shift gear and rig stands at the same time. The logistics of setting up and breaking down exhibitions involves a particular kind of organised chaos. One flight case looks much like any other. An unattended expensive power tool might just be too tempting for a light-fingered passer-by. Even a roll of gaffer tape might be just what a less organised team is looking for. Without taking the right precautions, you could unload, turn your back for five minutes and then look back to find your gear gone. The fact is, losing even just one, tiny item could scupper your entire build if it’s important. It’s not just a case of throwing more resources at a project. Spare gear and extra people represent a risk in themselves. So, having robust procedures in place to manage these important details will dramatically reduce the chances of being torpedoed by an avoidable problem. Most importantly, we always keep in mind that no two events are the same – even when we do repeat events in the same venue. By the time the Event Trees team arrives on site, everyone knows the plan, what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, how to do it, and what they need to do it. That allows them to focus on the build with complete confidence. It means the hazards and chaos of the typical event become manageable aspects of the important work – creating amazing, magical experiences. exhibitionnews.co.uk | February 2019 59