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Grahame Jones, Chief Operating Officer for FIL gives a behind the scenes view.
While the exhibition is about facilitating business, it is no mean feat putting on an event of the sheer scale of FIA. As part of FIL, the Operations teams work with the Sales and Marketing and Flight Operations team to create the show that is considered a standard bearer in the events industry. Every two years, the operations teams start organising the construction of what is in effect a small town. With over 1500 exhibitors, the majority housed in 100,000sqm of temporary and 10,000sqm of permanent structures, everything from electricity, water supply and internet connectivity to site security, medical assistance and catering are all carefully planned and managed to the smallest detail.
We start any two-year cycle at the end of each show with a series of debrief meetings totalling 130 with our various official contractors and suppliers - we work with over 80 companies and official bodies. From there we start planning the next show and make any site infrastructure improvements. For example, the last cycle saw new hard standing across the site, installation of permanent CCTV and upgrades to all amenities of approximately £2mil. Most significantly, we also embarked on the first phase of our site development - the construction of the permanent row-A chalet buildings for our exhibitors, with a Cap Ex of £2.8m.
In the January of the show year, the many temporary structures start to be erected - four exhibition halls, media centre and restaurant hall, over 80 chalet units and some 20 outside exhibits spanning the 100,000sqm site. Our exhibitor’s contractors come on site about a month before the show to commence fit out of chalets and start building their exhibition stands and by the time the exhibitor arrives on site, there is no evidence of the work gone in to creating on the event.
To the exhibitor the operations team is very much the invisible side of the business. However, it’s an integral part of it. Our aim is to make the visitor and exhibitor experience as easy as possible. From way finding and signage to air conditioning or visitor safety, it’s all down to the operations department to get it right.