ES. Could you please tell us about yourself and your role at XDS?
Voicu Sferdianu. I am the owner and CEO of XDS, a European based International Exhibitions and Events Agency. Our primary activity is designing and building exhibits for international clients exhibiting throughout Europe. I am playing this role since founding the company back in 2001. My main roles are to oversee the smooth running of the company, to create the right strategies for sustainable development, to guide, mentor and help the parts of XDS’ body to cooperate towards accomplishing the common goals in full compliance with our protocols and procedures.
I turn 51 on January 11th, and 25 of it I spent in the Exhibitions and Events Industry. I strongly believe that once you got bitten by the “Trade Show fever” it lasts for good. A critical part of building XDS growth was its internationalization. For that we became members of IFES (ifesnet.com) almost 20 years ago. I served in the IFES board for 11 years, out of which 4 as IFES President.
ES. In view of the continuously changing demands and market challenges, how have you organised your team to help your clients gain a competitive edge? What makes you apart from others?
Voicu Sferdianu. We are paying a lot of attention to markets and clients’ needs and conceptualizing and implementing our programs accordingly. Our HQ is in Romania – that can be turned into competitive advantage, and we have trade offices close to our markets, allowing us to create annual multi-show packages for our partners. They benefit of the experience of a team with a lot of international exposure and knowledge
in a best management practice frame. According to our clients, what sets us apart from others is the involvement of our team. We design and build exhibits with love. And some other ingredients.
ES. During the past few years, the exhibition industry, like the rest of the world, has undergone a lot of changes. What are the most significant changes you’ve witnessed during your time in the industry?
Voicu Sferdianu. Indeed, we have witnessed in the past twenty something years different approaches and trends for the experiential marketing activities. I will refer here to stand design and building. In the late 90’s the classic aluminum systems were rather present and visible. Early 2000 a wave of “showing off” hit and it provoked an increased demand for double decker stands. During the 2009 crisis we’ve noticed a dropback, followed in the early years of the 2010 decade by another increase of rented surfaces and stand design complexity. These were the golden years of beautiful designs, of the start of new media embedded in the exhibits, of many large stands built to host large numbers of visitors. Now, after 2020 we witness the designs going more and more back to system, for both sustainability and budget reasons. This time though, the system is barely visible, being hidden behind tensed fabric and nicely embedded, smart and sleek media players. The exhibits are less architectural, but way more filled with large media communicators, VR, AR, enabling the visitors to get more condensed information from exhibitors.
ES. Operational excellence is when the team executes the project’s strategy consistently with a clear focus on our customer’s needs. How do you define operational excellence?
Voicu Sferdianu. If I would refer to what I learned as an entrepreneur, I’d define XDS’ operational excellence as a set of value streams that helps us focus on sustainable growth and execute our strategies better than our competitors.
The goals of our operational excellence would be, not necessarily in this order:
Higher customer satisfaction
Smaller environmental footprint
Greater customer retention
ES. Stall designing, while being the most attractive and crucial part of the exibition industry, it should be practiced through sustainable and eco-friendly materials. What practices can be adopted by the industry at large to promote the cause of sustainability?
Voicu Sferdianu. Principles of sustainability in the experiential marketing industry were subject on the agenda for long. But I feel now the payday is very close and we are not far from the moment when organizers will be forced by the exhibitors to prove that events they organize are sustainable. Hence organizers will turn to us standbuilders to prove the same. In our case, the cause of sustainability can be addressed by implementing sustainable process flows in frames like ISO 20121 and perform small gestures such waste reducing equally in our warehouse, production facility and onsite. And, of course, using more and more reusable systems and recycled materials.
ES. What trends do you see shaping up in the Exhibition industry?
Voicu Sferdianu. I would say the mainstream these days is implementing and using more and more sophisticated technology in the exhibits. Technology allows exhibitors to reduce their exhibiting costs without having to reduce the quality of marketing and technical communication towards their visitors.
ES. Would you be able to share with us any experience where you’ve managed a crisis situation in delivering the project on time? Were there any learnings you would like to share?
Voicu Sferdianu. Crisis situations in the exhibition industry are not rare… We are the spin doctors behind scenes that whatever crisis strikes, we need to find solutions for the exhibit to be finished and delivered on time. The learnings after 25 years in the industry are that it is very good to be competitive but also very advisable to avoid greed. Never take more projects than you can handle! And this applies to exhibitors as well. Be very careful and selective when you choose your standbuilder and take time for your due diligence.
ES. Do you have a proud moment you can share about a time you deeply connected to a client’s business challenge and delivered the perfect solution?
Voicu Sferdianu. Yes, I do. It was this client we serviced for more than 10 years and then, due to budget cuts management decided against Marketing Department’s advice to turn to another vendor. Decision made 100% on price. It was an itinerary show that in that particular year was held in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the new vendor was unable to deliver the job in due time and quality. I was very proud of my onsite team, they called and explained the situation and asked permission that they try helping our ex-customer, that one evening before show started had a half-exhibit delivered and VIPs scheduled to meet their CEO the very next morning.
Long story short, our ex-customer got, thanks to XDS’ whole night efforts a great exhibit the next morning, even though a bit different from the original design. Meetings happened as planned, show was a great success and we lived happily ever after!
ES. On another note, what do you enjoy the most about your work? Please share your hobbies, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?
Voicu Sferdianu. I simply love the energy onsite. Every time I’m joining my team for a buildup I recharge my batteries, despite the stress and issues that come across till we deliver the job. Working in a stressful environment, when away from work I search harmony. In every shape. In nature, in good readings, in good music, in good arts, in good wine and especially in good people.
ES. What would you say to the industry if you had one message and one piece of advice to give?
Voicu Sferdianu. Stay assured that MICE in the traditional format of person-to-person meetings is here to stay. Exhibitions have a future. Because exhibitions are about humans. Humans craving to meet humans, to shake hands and hug. We are part of a fantastic industry and we love it!