A Foreign Affair

With clients in over a dozen countries, an exhibit display
specialist establishes two international offices

Photo: Cam Stevens, stevensE3 president and CEO

CAM STEVENS IS in one of the world’s oldest professions—the exhibition industry. It’s an ancient art form, dating back to the time when travelling traders set up shop along the silk routes to exchange commodities.

As the third-generation owner of stevensE3 (stevense3.com), Stevens also has the distinction of running the oldest exhibit house in North America.

The family-run business began as a sign shop on Princess Avenue in 1927 when Stevens’ grandfather, Archie Stevens, was looking for a way to pay for his university education. By graduation, business was booming and the company has never looked back.

While the name has changed a few times over the past 90 years, from Stevens Signs to Stevens Signs and Displays and now stevensE3, its commitment to cutting-edge exhibit design has remained constant. “Most people in London still consider us a signage shop,” comments Stevens.

Signs are still part of the product mix, but they now represent less than five per cent of total sales, and the company’s reach extends well beyond Southwestern Ontario.

“A trade show is face-to-face marketing. It is the most expensive tool in the marketing box, but it can also be the most efficient” —Thomas Schüttpelz

Today, stevensE3 is considered a leader in the global trade show industry, having produced experiential marketing campaigns for clients in over a dozen countries.

Stevens has his sights set on growing the firm’s international profile. StevensE3 began 2017 with the opening of offices in Cologne, Germany and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Cologne office, located next to the KolnMesse (exhibition hall), is run by Thomas Schüttpelz, who also takes on responsibility for business development within Europe.

“The Cologne office will help stevensE3 serve European clients in their own time zone and their own languages,” Schüttpelz explains.

It also puts the company at the heart of the European trade show action. “Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Cologne host a higher density of shows than even Las Vegas,” he says.

“A trade show is face-to-face marketing,” Schüttpelz notes. “It is the most expensive tool in the marketing box, but it can also be the most efficient. We are here to make sure our clients get the most out of their budget.”

In addition to facilitating the production of marketing exhibits for trade shows in Europe and beyond, having an office in Germany will help stevens E3 better serve European firms looking to increase their visibility in North America.

“There is a general level of discomfort exhibiting in North America,” Stevens says. “We are able to provide our European clients with the expertise to help them navigate those challenges and mitigate some of the additional costs.”

Rebecca Thompson heads up the Las Vegas office as director of U.S. sales.

“Las Vegas is the trade show capital of North America,” says Thompson. “And the city is actively trying to grow the international piece of the trade show industry.”

Construction has already begun on a $2.5 billion project to transform the 54-year old Las Vegas Convention Centre through the addition of 1.8 million square feet of meeting rooms and exhibition space, a new trade centre and multimodal transportation hub.

“Clients want good quality and great service,” Thompson says. “Stevens’ approach of really listening to the customer and providing a customized solution sets them apart.”

It’s an old-fashioned approach that still adds value in today’s high-tech exhibition industry. “A successful event space is one that helps the client achieve their objectives, whatever that may be,” Stevens notes.

And showmanship continues to be part of the magic. “A good exhibit design draws you in,” says Stevens, who credits his grandfather and father for always keeping the company one step ahead of the times. In the 1930s, that meant investing in silk-screen printing technology. By the 1960s, the company was painting buses in an early example of mobile marketing. Today, stevensE3 is exploring the immersive marketing power of virtual reality.

“It’s about leveraging our ability to help our customers put their best foot forward in the global marketplace,” Stevens says.  Nicole Laidler