Exhibition industry debates battery powered stands

As seen in Exhibition News.


A recent cover feature in EN (November issue) calling for the exhibition industry to take a closer look at regulations around battery-powered stands has prompted a flurry of companies calling for change.


Phil Ion, Founder of CORE Lighting, believes battery-powered stands are coming, but asks if the industry is ready: “It’s long been a fairly contentious issue; it’s no secret that many exhibitors find the cost of electricity prohibitive on top of the initial stand cost, plus more businesses than ever need that electricity to exhibit effectively.


“I’ve run my business for over ten years, and in that time I’ve exhibited personally at numerous trade shows in the events and hospitality industries. We manufacture a range of battery-powered lights, which I’ve always used for my own stands. During that time, I’ve frequently heard fellow exhibitors, often small, independent businesses for whom a trade show is a big investment, complain about the prohibitively high electricity prices.”


The EN feature exploring the industry’s view on alternative power highlighted floors in Association of Event Venue’s eGuide, a rulebook member venues follow when permitted batteries at venues. Many venues cite potential health & safety concerns as a reason to clamp down on battery-powered stands, specifically around the use of lithium ion batteries, which have had rather a bad rap over the last few years thanks to the dramatic recalling of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 back in 2016.


Ion adds: “Airlines responded appropriately and now it is undeniably trickier to transport lithium batteries internationally, although it’s worth pointing out that millions are still shipped every day without incident (Approximately 1.43 billion mobile phones were sold worldwide in 2018). Every mobile phone and laptop has similar batteries to those we use, as do an increasing number of consumer devices such as vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers and eBikes.


“Battery power is currently an unrealistic option for large exhibition stands and will be for the foreseeable future, but I believe that it’s something worth considering for the vast number of smaller exhibition stands at fairs and markets around the world.”


Ion makes the point that smaller stands at B2C events operate under tighter margins where there’s a stronger argument for alternative power.


He adds: “A one-off upfront cost for a battery pack would be made back in only a matter of shows, and could therefore make exhibiting a more attractive proposition for these smaller, frequently exhibiting businesses (not to mention for organisers who offer ‘plug-and-play’-style stands). Not to mention acting as an incentive for businesses previously put off by cost to return to the fold, making exhibitions more competitive in the face of rival marketing channels.”


Ion explains that what the industry needs is a way to integrate battery-powered stands fully into the show floor. If there are concerns around health & safety then perhaps it’s time to provide a form of official regulation for battery-powered stands, rather than allowing them to be a growing trend that often goes unremarked upon during build-up.


“As a manufacturer I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to provide declarations for lithium batteries, which have been tested to UN standards, and able to provide replacements if there were any issues arising from frequent long-term use. We can also aid in battery disposal if ever needed in line with The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which became law in 2003 and which set targets for the collection and recycling of electrical goods.”


Battery powered exhibition stands are the elephant in the room for many exhibitors (and organisers), looking to reduce total exhibiting costs. As the stakeholders responsible for managing mains power at a show, it would be reasonable to look to the venues and contractors for potential solutions. The question is, do they have an incentive? Surprisingly, many organisers could play a more significant part of driving the technology as is many cases it offers better ROI for their customers.


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