35 Exhibitors will have used his stand kit, and as he bodes farewell to the exhibition industry, Octanorm's Richard Armitagetalks to Exhibitingabout his hopes for the future. Tell EXa little about how you became involved in the exhibition industry. My grandfather owned a company called Springvale Exhibitions and Electrics and my grandfather on my mother's side ran signage company Perton Signs, so exhibitions were part of my life since the beginning. While working for Nestle in Switzerland, I discovered a clever little clip for holding panels and glass. As it happened, a company that had imported the clips went bust and my uncle ended up with a big box of them. I knew exactly what they were and how they could be used for displays, so I hot- footed it to Germany early in 1968 in an attempt to get an agency for them in the UK. There I met Hans Staeger, the designer of the clip. He had discovered an aluminium system which was being used in butcher shops to hang sides of meat. He changed it into an eight- sided upright and named it Octanorm. It Making a final stand was launched on 6 December 1968 and was the first ever aluminium system designed to build exhibition stands. What advice would you give people in the industry? I would tell contractors to do it better. Make more of an effort to get the exhibitors' stands right. To organisers, I would say be fair and don't overcharge. Some of the charges for space are up to even five or six hundred pounds per square metre. Finally, I would tell exhibitors to have faith. Don't desert the exhibition scenario. It is the only place where people can touch your product, even sniff it and give it a kick. Also, don't be too reliant on the internet. It can help you, but the real action is always going to be at the exhibition. All of us have to encourage the visitor to come to the exhibition, where they can do all the above things. There is no better place to market your product than at an exhibition. I'm absolutely convinced of that. What are some of your wishes for the industry's future? I would like halls to charge the right price to an organiser for renting space like a classic interview EXHIBITING- July/ August 2010 www. exhibitingmagazine. co. uk Suited and booted: Richard Armitage
EXHIBITING- July/ August 2010 www. exhibitingmagazine. co. uk 36 and the Association of Event Organisers ( AEO), who is also the CEO of his own exhibition organising company. I can't see how that can be right and it doesn't sit comfortably with me. The Event Supplier and Services Association ( ESSA), the Association of Event Venues ( AEV) and the AEO have no staff, they all use the EIA. It seems to me the exhibitor has been ignored in all of this, without whom, we wouldn't have any exhibitions at all. For example, former ESSA chairman Steve Barratt of contractor Early Action Group has been a very strong leader, but his customers, who are members of the AEO, are sitting on the same committee as he is; the EIA general committee. The trade associations are so intertwined that they can't possibly have their absolute independence. Although all the parties have to be friends, they sometimes have fights. There are always issues between the three parties. It's like having a trade association with poachers and gamekeepers in it together. They have all got their own little raison d'etreto represent. What plans do you have for retirement? Are you going to remain active in the industry? At the moment I'm not very sure. I'm an ambassador for Octanorm. One or two people have approached me to help them with exhibition- related ideas. I'm not at liberty to say any more than that right now. Richard can be reached via the deputy editor. landlord and tenant situation. To rely on commissions from electrics is wrong. When you see a bill for the mains on a stand that is greater than the annual charge for electricity for a four bedroom house, then it's becoming a bit silly. I would rather the venue owner charge rent. I would like the organiser not to rely on kickbacks or commissions. Let's have everything absolutely open and in the clear. Let the organiser charge for what they are doing purely and simply. Stop browbeating contractors to do their jobs for less and less. It is ludicrous to expect that. The industry needs transparency for all involved, but I can't see an easy answer to the problem. Do you think the industry associations are standing up for the interests of their members? Suppliers are now tied up with venue owners and organisers in the same organisation. We now have the CEO of the Events Industry Alliance ( EIA) interview Armitage and his Octanorm brand have been building exhibition stands for over 40 years " The industry needs transparency for all involved, but I can't see an easy answer to the problem"