In a month when Copper is managing public events for no fewer than four major projects, we look at why the humble exhibition is still such a mainstay of good community engagement.

As society gets increasingly digitally connected, we’re always reading how traditional forms of communication are being superseded by smarter, more data-driven alternatives.

Whether it’s planning, construction or communications, all industries in the infrastructure sector are racing to develop more innovative ways of engaging people using tools like social media. They give us new ways of finding and communicating with traditionally harder-to-reach audiences, by creatively sharing and gathering information and ideas incorporating things like video, graphics and online feedback.

But, as any psychologist will tell you, for most people there’s no substitute for the human touch. That’s why, particularly when projects are contentious or complex, public events remain one of the most important ways to engage people on their benefits.

This month (June 2017), Copper is delivering 14 events for separate projects. In Lincolnshire, on behalf of our client National Grid, we’re managing information events for the nationally strategic electricity interconnector Viking Link. In the south east, there are exhibitions for another NSIP, Kent’s Manston Airport, as well as local housing schemes in Surrey and Staines.

Events not only humanise a project, by helping people put faces and names to the plans, they are a great way to showcase project benefits.

In return, project managers can make sure stakeholders get a clearer understanding of the issues within the context of wider project benefits, and which is framed by our project narrative with the help of a range of supporting materials.

And that’s where digital technology can most transform the exhibition. Videos, animations, 3D models and interactive maps have become invaluable in helping make future plans and options easier to visualise. Look out for much more of that.