A Sign of Success: Jenny Matthew
Jenny Matthew is the Event Director of Sign and Digital UK. In this interview, Jenny speaks to Karis Copp about returning to Faversham House, the current trends that are influencing next year’s show, her passion for visual communications, and how digital innovation can enrich the events industry.CAN YOU EXPLAIN A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’ve had a really interesting career, which has taken me into lots of different industries working both nationally and internationally. From oil, gas and renewables, highways and traffic management, heating and ventilating, the environment and my favourite, visual communications. I started my career in marketing and then progressed into business management roles, working at board level.HOW HAS YOUR ROLE CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED AT FAVERSHAM HOUSE, LEADING UP TO YOU BECOMING EVENT DIRECTOR OF SIGN AND DIGITAL UK?
Well, this is my second time at Faversham House. I first joined the company in 2001 and was the Marketing Manager for Sign UK, as Sign and Digital UK (SDUK) was known back then. I worked my way up to Group Marketing Manager and left in 2007 to join a subsea engineering and training consultancy in the oil and gas industry. After having my daughter in 2016, I took a career break for several years and having kept in touch with Amanda Barnes, Faversham House’s CEO, I re-joined the company in 2018 when an opportunity to work part-time on an event launch project arose. I then moved across into the Event Director role for SDUK in June 2019. The role is fundamentally the same but with a bigger team and a brilliant show heritage to work with. And of course, in an industry that I’m particularly passionate about.WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU EXPERIENCE IN YOUR ROLE?
I have the usual ones that all businesses have but one that’s unique to event management is show-cycle timings. We work all year round to deliver a great show, but everything really comes together in the last 12 weeks before the event takes place. This puts enormous pressure on the team to deliver a great event despite all the pre-planning we do. I’m really lucky to work with a brilliant team who rise to this challenge and thrive on the pressure to do well.
Another challenge of a show with a 30+ year heritage is changing people’s perceptions. We work really hard to keep the show fresh each year, listening and acting on industry feedback. It can be challenging to get that message across as everyone ‘knows’ SDUK as it’s an industry staple.WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT WORKING IN THE SIGN AND DIGITAL COMMUNICATION SPACE?
I’ve worked across a number of industries in my career and the visual communications industry is by far my favourite. I love the creativity and the passion of the industry. There have been some amazing developments since I last worked on SDUK and I’m excited to see what’s coming.
I also love the loyalty and dedication to SDUK. Many of our current exhibitors were doing the show when I was Marketing Manager 20 years ago and it’s heart-warming to work with them again and pick up where I left off. When I first took on the role, I undertook my own research trip to really understand how the industry had changed and what visitors to SDUK need. Every company I contacted for a visit was welcoming and happy to give up their time to talk – it’s an industry that wants to progress and is happy to share ideas to do so.HOW HAVE VISUAL COMMUNICATION, SIGNAGE AND PRINT INDUSTRY TRENDS INFORMED THE 2020 (AND NOW 2021) SDUK STRATEGY, AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE SHOW?
There’s a growing momentum in digital textile printing and finishing that’s been showcased at SDUK for several years now. We’re supporting this growth market by having a dedicated learning zone at the show. Textile Tech will feature applications, demonstrations, skills workshops, industry speakers and market leading specialist exhibitors. This, plus a textile trail highlighting all relevant products and services on show will support visitors wishing to develop new revenue streams or expand existing ones.SUSTAINABILITY IS ALSO HIGH ON THE AGENDA WITH THE GLOBAL MOVE TOWARDS REDUCING PLASTIC USE AND WASTE. VISITORS CAN EXPECT TO SEE PRODUCTION METHODS, MATERIALS AND OTHER PRACTICAL WAYS THE INDUSTRY CAN MOVE TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL AND BECOME MORE PROFITABLE IN DOING SO.LIKE MOST SHOWS IN THIS INDUSTRY AND BEYOND, IT HAS BEEN NECESSARY TO POSTPONE THE 2020 SDUK EVENT. WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION TO THE POSTPONEMENT, AND WHAT EFFECT WILL THIS HAVE ON THE EVENT WHEN IT DOES TAKE PLACE IN 2021?
We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the suspension of SDUK to 2 to 4 March 2021 from both visitors and exhibitors. We took the decision quickly at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak to ensure we minimised unnecessary costs and uncertainty for our exhibitors and visitors and with their health, safety and welfare at the heart of the decision.
We worked hard with all stakeholders as well as suppliers to roll the show over to the new date and working together, we’ve managed to do just this.WHAT LONG-LASTING EFFECTS DO YOU SEE THIS CURRENT PANDEMIC HAVING ON THE EVENTS INDUSTRY?
As with the majority of industries in the global economy, this is going to have a huge impact on the events industry. There are so many companies in the supply chain, both large and small, that have had their revenue stream turned off overnight. I’m sure there will be some casualties along the way and the industry will be worse off for that.
We know from our own recent experience of social distancing that we can adapt to how we maintain contact, run businesses and socialise in a world with limited face-to-face contact. We also know that we are craving normality and direct social contact. I’m positive that industry gatherings will remain an important component of our business and social life when we can safely do so.
I also think the events industry is adapting fast and some of the innovation we are seeing in digital events will outlast this pandemic and enrich what we can offer for the better. Faversham House is a publisher and event organiser with a 60-year heritage and one who has thrived on being at the forefront of industry innovation. It was one of the first to launch a digital-only information portal over 22 years ago, edie.net, whose mission is to make businesses more sustainable and help tackle climate change. We’re looking at using these skills to introduce new elements into SDUK too whether that is before, during or after the physical event. We want to offer something positive to the industry and help its recovery for the long term.WHAT’S THE LONG-TERM PLAN FOR SIGN AND DIGITAL UK?
To keep delivering a great event that the industry looks forward to each year. I’m certainly looking forward to the next 30 years of SDUK and the innovation it will bring.