Perfecting the art of good site relations over 20 years

The first time you step onto a large exhibition site as it’s being set up is an eye opener. A mini (or rather large) ecosystem of carpenters, electricians and other trades busy at work, with project managers and site supervisors whizzing about in golf buggies and scooters.

It calls for calm heads and experience to get the job done well. And at RTH, that is something we have in abundance. We caught up with project director Nick Ryan to find out about upcoming projects, and how he has perfected the art of good site relations over 20 years at RTH.

What is your next super-sized project and how much have you got going on there?

We’ll be at Farnborough this year for the air show. RTH are delivering seven different projects. That includes four chalets ranging from 120m2 to 1,200m2; two stands; and one 600m2 outside pavilion.

Tell us what an RTH project director is typically doing on site at such a big show?

So for me, for a show like Farnborough (and last year it was Paris), it will be a six- or seven-week trip. That’s five weeks of build, one week of show and one week of dismantling. As project director, I’m making sure multiple projects are running smoothly, that my people have what they need and that they are following site rules.

I’ll be doing this alone during most of the build phase. And then when clients start arriving onsite, we’ll bring out dedicated project managers to support them.

In a typical day, I will arrive at my site office about 5:30am, have a cup of coffee and check for any pertinent emails. Then I will be onto my scooter or buggy doing a reccy of the site. I will speak to all the foremen on our projects, checking for problems and if they need anything for the day ahead – a road closure for example. If there are any issues, I’ll seek the people required to fix them, whether that be our own suppliers or approved official ones from the organisers. I’ll do this a minimum of four times a day.

Health and safety is very important too. Our people are well trained, but when out on my rounds, I’ll just be keeping an eye out to ensure no-one is taking any shortcuts up a ladder and the like.

You must have many secrets to success in managing such complex projects. You probably don’t want to give them all away, but can you share some insight?

Getting the basics right for sure: pre-planning, site knowledge, strong relationships with the organisers and their approved suppliers.

For me it is about good, old-fashioned people management. I act professionally and courteously to everyone at all times. On hot days I’ll make a point of distributing ice creams to all the workers – our own and those working for the organisers. Little touches like that mean that I have never had any pushback when I really need something done.

The other way doesn’t work. I’ve seen people yelling orders and it may get results short term, but treating people badly always comes back to haunt you.

Every exhibition must have its own stories, but can you share just one that springs to mind?

We had a client arrive to see their pavilion for the first time, and she started crying. I did pause to check whether they were tears of joy or despair, and fortunately she was happy. These events have so much riding on them. It is a pleasure to have built the experience to be able to deliver that level of service to people who care so much.

Bring this experience to your upcoming events schedule

Nick is just one member of our large, experienced team at RTH – distributed across offices in the USA and UK. If you are searching for this level of expertise to deliver outstanding trade show stands, pavilions or chalets, drop us a line to find out how we can help you.

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If you would like to discuss your exhibition centre or stand requirements with our expert team, give us a call on +44 (0) 1454 332 000 or email

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