An interview with Matthew Butler, Executive Director
Where did you grow-up?
I grew up in south London, I’ve always been in the same vicinity apart from when I was in University in Southampton! Being from south London, it does mean I am Chelsea supporter, although with three young children, I don’t follow the games as much as I used to!
How was lockdown life at home?
I have two girls who are 5 and 7, and a boy who is 3 – I am very lucky that Louise, my wife, was able to look after them and do the home schooling. I was hidden away for the first lockdown sitting upstairs in the bedroom – they didn't actually know where I was or that I was even at home! Although over time they found me and enjoyed coming to see me work which was sweet until they unfortunately built up the confidence to join my zoom calls!
Outside of work I watched a lot of Netflix – really enjoyed the series Money Heist and watching Disney Pixar with the children! I tried to fit in cycling and running when I could and tennis when it was allowed.
I did learn how to play the guitar in lockdown – it is something I always wanted to do, and not being able to do much else, it was a great opportunity to finally get to learn!
I definitely found the last lockdown the hardest – it was dark, cold, and wet, and Christmas was taken away. However, I know I was lucky as friends and family were safe.
How did you start your career in events?
I used to work at Reed, which was a massive publishing company running magazines. They sold my division and someone I knew working in the exhibition industry said they had this great opportunity for me on a show, so I went and did that. And the rest is history. It was nearly 21 years ago, 2021 marks my 10-year anniversary at CloserStill.
Wow that is a long time, what is it about events that you like so much?
It is a culmination of a lot of things. I like the collaboration of events – working with so many great people and departments and seeing everything come to life from what were only show plans less than a year ago!
We put our lives into it, so much of you is left on the show floor when you close the door. In that 12-month campaign so much happens in that time, to you, your team and to your family. You always remember the show and what happened during that show cycle. It's not like the magazine industry where you produce 1 edition a week or month and a slight mistake doesn't really make much of a difference. With events you have 1 chance a year where you have got to get it right.
What has the past year been like for you at work?
It's been super tough. It has been tough from a board perspective because we just can't plan, we want to plan and we love to plan, but it’s been so difficult as you're planning on something you know nothing about. There hasn’t been an instruction book of how to deal with COVID but in hindsight I think we did make the right decisions and we’ve done very well.
It has been difficult on everyone in every element of the business; for Sales rolling shows and selling, Marketing, Content and Operations learning everything about virtual events and for Finance and IT implementing new system remotely. It has been hard year and we have all been treading in uncharted territory. I cannot thank everyone at CloserStill enough for the hard work, innovation and energy you have all given us these last 15 months. It shows we can really do anything!
What do you miss most about events?
The energy. The energy from everything we have spent months putting together! That combination of energy when you open the doors, from us, the suppliers, the visitors, to the exhibitors doing business. It is that focussed energy over those two days that I miss the most!