Mercedes-Benz and the story of the exhibitor becoming the show

November 13, 2017

Antony RC

Blogger: Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd As

Exhibitions are singularly adept at gathering an entire market in one place for a short period of time. People pay good money to be in the mix when this happens, be it as buyer or exhibitor, influencer or influenced. The bigger the event, the greater the percentage of the international market in attendance.

The world’s largest motor show, IAA Frankfurt, is one event that truly gathers the global community, car lovers are just one part of the circus that gathers in the industrial Germany city for one week every September.

And this year one of the show’s leading exhibitors, Mercedes-Benz, took its involvement to a new level by partnering with the organiser behind the Texas-based South by Southwest (SXSW) festival for a standalone event that gave the brand maximum exposure to this audience on a scale I’ve not seen before.

Mood: Hackathon, Swing, Forum II / II, me Convention

The first ‘me Convention’ was no ordinary exhibitor sideshow. Taking place at the multipurpose Festhalle Frankfurt venue on 15-17 September, Mercedes quoted 2,700 attendees from 35 countries, who gathered to watch presentations on technology, design and creativity by a facinating 150-strong speaker line-up that included astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, cyborg Neil Harbisson, sociologist Auma Obama and Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche. A far cry from the usual motor show mini-event featuring an industry commentator running through pre-approved questions with one of the brand’s marketing bods.

The event played with a number of modern trade show and convention formats; taking the form of seminars, workshops, interactive labs, art installations and an evening event programme that Mercedes claims set out to inspire visitors to become “a global force turning dreams of tomorrow into realities”.

Buzz Aldrin

After all, these are the tenets that the car manufacturer wishes to be associated with, regardless of whether the cars themselves are the subject. In fact Marcomms director of at Mercedes-Benz Cars, Natanael Sijanta, explained to me that the company is in the midst of a rather aggrandising transformation “from a car manufacturer to a mobility services provider for the society of tomorrow”.

She also told me the event continues the firm’s evolvement of its trade fair presences. “We used the Frankfurt Motor Show IAA this year for the first time to open up new dimensions in brand perception among the target groups relevant to us with a completely new format that was unusual for an automaker in the past. Our aim was to transform the traditional trade fair into an inspiring community platform.”

As to how Mercedes went about pulling this feat off without upsetting the team at IAA Frankfurt, it seems any fears of the event being parasitic, drawing business from the main event at Messe Frankfurt, were dismissed.

Keynote 150917

“We presented the concept of the me Convention to the IAA in advance and they were really supportive. However, the detailed planning and implementation together with SXSW took place independent of the IAA. There were no provisions or restrictions,” she said. “We believe that formats such as the me Convention are an asset for the classic trade fair formats. With it, we attract people who in the past never or rarely visited an auto show.

“Trade fair organisers must be willing to try new formats. Innovations are necessary to respond to changes or initiate them. In this respect, the trade fair organisers will also (have to) react to changes to keep making the factor ‘trade fair’ interesting for all parties involved,” she emphasised.

In any case Mercedes-Benz was out to do away with existing, ahem, conventions. While exhibitions are anomalous in that they are the product of their own carefully selected client base – show floors defined by exhibitors – the prospect of an exhibitor becoming the highlight of the show has rarely been seen on such a scale.

Photo credit from the top:  Nass – Brauer Photos fuer Mercedes-Benz / Buzz © Daimler AG / Jens Thiemer on stage © Daimler AG,

(My thanks to Kai for the tip-off to this fascinating event.)


Interview with TCEB’s new exhibitions director

November 9, 2017

Kanokporn 1

Blogger: Ms. Kanokporn Damrongkul, Director, Exhibition and Events Department of TCEB

Hidden among the many news stories that unfolded at this year’s UFI Global Congress was one that TCEB is particularly proud of. The promotion of Kanokporn Damrongkul (Kelly) to Director of Exhibitions begins a new chapter in our organization’s exciting story and continues the legacy created by Jaruwan, who assumes a new directorship at our MICE Intelligence & Innovation Department.A familiar face at UFI events, Kelly is a longstanding member of TCEB. Here she gives her thoughts on the industry at home and abroad as she moves into her new role from her previous position as Senior Manager of Business Development.

What advances have you seen in the Thai exhibition industry in the time you’ve been in the industry?

“The exhibition industry has evolved a lot. Digital has become a key factor and online complements the offline platform, especially trade shows in light industry. New technology has become a key success factor for show organizers in terms of generating the growth and revenue of their trade shows. Technology will enable organizers to engage with visitors/exhibitors/sponsors 365 days a year, and enable them to use the data wiser.

What opportunities and threats are there for exhibitions in South East Asia, from competitors elsewhere in the world?

I see more opportunity than threats for the competitive landscape in SE Asia. There’s huge interest in the ASEAN market from Asia, Europe, the USA and new markets such as Japan and Korea. Market competitiveness has kept Thai exhibition infrastructure up to speed, ensuring we are ready for business focused on South East Asia, and enabling TCEB to more aggressively develop our new business approach.

How will your previous role in business development help you in the new position? What lessons have you learned about the exhibition industry in Thailand – and in general?

My key responsibility was to build strong fundamentals to facilitate international and local organizers and exhibitors looking to tap trade opportunities in ASEAN through exhibitions. What I learned is that TCEB should perform as a creator and initiator; leading the trends and creating business opportunities for key stakeholders in Thailand. This will be one of my key areas of focus in the new role.

How is TCEB helping Thailand to realize the Government’s ‘Thailand 4.0’ objectives?

The government’s Thailand 4.0 program aims to encourage cooperation between the government and private sector to support innovation and digitalization of the country. The exhibition industry is a market platform that publicizes technology and commercializes transactions between new business and new start-ups adhering to Thailand 4.0 policy, with the focus on promoting innovative and emerging industries. Currently, we have a supporting programme ‘Pitch for Boom’ to help create business opportunities for Thai exhibition venues seeking to bring international exhibitions to Thailand. One recent success story from this campaign is Thailand being chosen as host of the renowned exhibition ‘CeBIT ASEAN Thailand 2018’ by Deutshe Messe AG, Germany and IMPACT Exhibition Management scheduled to take place on 18-20 October 2018.

Raising the odds of our exhibitions’ success

October 31, 2017

Antony RC

Blogger: Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd

As anyone on their way to Johannesburg this week will know, Raising The Odds is the theme of this year’s UFI Global Congress. The congress, now in its 84th edition, has been conceived to help delegates increase the chance of achieving their goals and the goals of their clients.

With the evolution of exhibition formats, markets are expanding, shifting in such a way that our businesses are continuously presented with new revenue sources. Much of this comes from the digitisation of exhibition businesses. Exhibitions co-exist with online counterparts and therein lies a great deal of potential revenue, be it derived from the collection and exchange of data, dissemination of content or good ol’ fashion sponsorship and advertising.

Opportunities arise from market pressures and in catering for the increasing demands of our audiences, we also encounter new ways in which to boost revenue. This is a concept encapsulated in UFI’s secondary catchline for this year’s congress: ‘Pressures and profits in the exhibition industry’.

In some instances the reverse can be true; and the most skilful organiser and show directors can induce their audiences to engage in new digital practices,  giving the organiser access to new revenue streams while improving the overall visitor and exhibitor experience.

For example, in applying Feathr’s technology solutions to one of SME’s (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) largest events, the US East Coast manufacturing event Eastec, the association’s digital marketing specialist Amanda Krigner says she reached new audience segments that had never attended Eastec – its key objective for that year’s event.

“We decided that investing in new technology was the best way to transition our audience toward digital. As we listened to the Feathr demo, bells started going off in our heads,” she said.

Successful visitor experience is defined by so many factors that it’s hard to keep track of where this new money is coming from and as a result; where investment is prudent. New opportunities arise as much from the qualitative experience as they do with quantifiable factors such as attendance and matchmaking.

In an interview earlier this year, Freeman executive VP and chief marketing officer Chris Cavanaugh told me the role that brand experience plays in the context of business events continues to increase in scope and importance, as audience expectations evolve.

“Steep competition, changing demographics and more sophisticated audiences mean marketers need new approaches,” he explained. “The right brand experiences have the power to evolve brands, build relationships and inspire action.”

Partnerships with such firms of course lead the enrichment of the industry; the core reason the UFI Global Congress holds such value in the first place. The percentage of speakers and panellists from areas not previously associated with the industry is increasing, and our industry all the richer for it.

Let’s not forget, the exhibition industry is growing faster than the global economy, and there is much we can do to raise the odds of our success and continue this trend.

Follow the event on Twitter: #ufijoburg.

The IFP Group’s Joker Program

October 11, 2017


Insight by Diana Salman, HR Strategic Change Manager (IFP Group) and UFI NGL Grant recepient.

In playing cards, the Joker is Wild. Being able to be anything the holder needs it to be, it makes any hand stronger. The Joker Program is UFI member IFP Group’s answer to moving their operations team seamlessly across their six offices in five countries as needed.


Diana Salman, HR Strategic Change Manager for the company and 2017 #NGLGrant recipient shared how her company came up with the idea.

IFP Group (International Fairs and Promotions) is a longtime trade fair and event organizer in the Middle East, having produced over 500 successful events to date. The company is headquartered in Lebanon with offices and operations in UAE, Qatar, Egypt, and Iraq. It produces an array of 70+ B2B and B2C exhibitions, conferences and specialized events annually serving many sectors across the Middle East and Africa.


The Challenges

  1. Very limited talent pool in the Middle East, especially in the events industry
  2. Unexpected turnovers and resignations
  3. Higher overhead and cost of living in the other Stations (offices) than in Beirut.
  4. Decentralized relationships between the head office and suppliers in countries of operations
  5. Lack of available resources when taking on new shows and partners to cover new business

With two events on average per office, per year, there are usually three months out of the year that IFP Group’s operations personnel are less busy, but still contracted to work full time. Although the operations team members have the right skills and knowledge of event production in their own country, they still lacked this know-how and the contractor relationships in IFP’s countries of operation. As a result, it was hard to move operational resources from one show to another across the MENA region.

IFP decided to educate and groom the operations team at a group level instead of station level, including basing them in the head office, closer to senior management, and reassigning them to other countries as the show date approaches. The goal is to have ready resources that are able to travel as needed to shows, have improved, closer supplier relationships and increase organizational flexibility.

The way to achieve this goal is through knowledge transfer and management initiatives within the company. The program also provides team members with career paths that would promote them within the company and expose them to regional markets and big scale operations, while helping IFP in retaining junior and mid-level personnel.

IFP Group plans to expand the Joker Program into their sales and project management departments.

Meet Diana at the upcoming UFI Global Congress #ufijoburg, where she and her four fellow grant recepients will share thier view on the future of the exhibition industry.

Interview by Stephanie Selesnick, President of International Trade Information, Inc.

Jochen Witt to deliver his 10th and final Global Industry Review at the UFI Congress in Johannesburg, South Africa

October 9, 2017


Blogger: Stephanie Selesnick, President of International Trade Information, Inc.

For the past ten consecutive years, Jochen Witt has presented the “Global Industry Review” at each annual UFI Congress. The annual “State of the Global Industry” presentation is seen by many as the “cannot miss” session of the event.

Stephanie Selesnick: Would you share a bit about your upcoming session at the UFI Global Congress in Johannesburg?

Jochen Witt: This year, my presentation will be composed of three parts:

  1. Global politics and the economies of the most important largest trade fair countries
  2. A review of the last 10 years:
    1. How accurate were our (jwc) predictions over the years? What happened?
    2. How have the major exhibition players in the world fared over the last 10 years?
  3. The main results of our annual Global Exhibition Industry Survey (GEIS) 2017

Stephanie Selesnick: 10 years – you’ve become almost a tradition with your talk. However, you said that 2017 would be the last time you will be presenting the “Global Industry Review”. Why is this the final one?

Jochen Witt: 10 years are a very long time, and I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing my findings and views year after year. I will miss this, but as well feel that it is time for different perspectives. I approached UFI with the idea, and then we made the decision to leave on a high note this year.

Stephanie Selesnick: Considering how positively your presentation has been received at each Congress, was it a difficult decision for you to stop?

Jochen Witt: Yes and no…. On the one hand it is always difficult to discontinue things you like to do, and I really enjoy giving this talk. On the other hand it gives me more time to focus on our business at jwc. Preparing the presentation requires a tremendous amount of time, resources and thoughts of the entire organization at jwc; this is something easily overseen when you listen to the presentation.

Stephanie Selesnick: How has the response rate to the 2017 GEIS been thus far?

Jochen Witt: We’re happy with the rate, which is about the same as last year’s. Since this year’s survey is longer, it’s a very positive sign that people want to share their views. The pattern seems to follow last year, with most Europeans answering the survey, followed by a good response from Asia and North America, with Latin American and Africa answering less.

Make sure to catch Jochen Witt’s last Global State of the Industry on Friday, November 3 from 12:00-13:15 (1:15pm) at the UFI Global Congress in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It has been an incredibly interesting, exciting and rewarding experience!

October 4, 2017


Blogger: Dr. Andreas Gruchow, UFI President

Dear colleagues,
dear friends,

They say that time flies when you are working hard and having fun – and I totally agree.  Almost a year has passed since I was handed the President’s gavel in Shanghai at the 83th UFI Global Congress. It has been an incredibly interesting, exciting and rewarding experience and one of the shortest years in my life.

These last words of welcome in my presidency provides the opportunity to review the progress we’ve made together during my mandate, to look back briefly, but primarily to look forward.

Many initiatives were started, UFI programmes were smoothly implemented and new formats were created. It is too much to list everything, but to further develop the UFI strategy and to help set the vision for our industry has always been at the centre of my thoughts and actions. From the very beginning when Kai Hattendorf took over as UFI’s General Director and started working on the future strategy, I became deeply involved. Kai and I had several intense discussions about our experiences and our views of the world of exhibitions and events. And we shared them with the Executive Committee and individual members as often as possible. I really thank all of you who actively participated in our discussions and contributed to this process! What should be the role of UFI with respect to the needs of our industry, its stakeholders and UFI members? What are our main challenges? How can new parameters and techniques lead to new  opportunities and not appear as risks? It has been a great pleasure for me to work with Kai on those questions which are incorporated in the new UFI strategy, to advance the goals of our profession and the UFI organisation.

Moreover my main goal has been to broaden our global base of active members, make more people within our member companies aware of UFI’s benefits and encourage them to actively contribute to our global network. This was especially important for the UFI  elections in recent months: We have new chapters and committees, and in November we will establish a new Board of Directors and Executive Committee. I would like to thank  all of you who applied for these positions and your contribution! Many new faces stepped forward, willing to actively engage and support. Being an engineer, I didn’t look for the one-and-only-idea but instead tried to help influence and optimize as many elements and processes as possible:

Glocalisation?! The goal was to broaden and deepen the network of UFI on a global scale. Here are just a few examples:

North America: We strengthened our co-operation with SISO in the U.S. and felt a good consensus when we met at the SISO meeting in Miami, many UFI members joined as well.

South America: Since Andrés (Lopéz Valderama, from Colombia) became a member of the UFI Trio and President we have been able to more than double the number of UFI members on this continent. Within the Executive Committee, we are looking into the best ways to serve our members directly in the region as this growth continues. One decision we have already made is to hold UFI’s first ever Regional Conference for Latin America on 19 September 2018.


Europe: I had the honour to represent UFI in a meeting with the mayor of Barcelona at the GCS and to meet our industry leaders. And I met so many „new faces“ who participated at the European Congress in Cologne. Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to welcome the Executive Committee in Hannover.


Asia: My calendar reflected the importance of this region, starting with our last UFI Global Congress in Shanghai, CEFCO in Macao, TCEB in Bangkok as well as BIEC’s 10th anniversary in Bangalore. (Both are valued and long-term sponsors of UFI – thank you.) We are on our way to open a UFI presence for China in Shanghai. Keeping the rapid growth of new venues in mind, we introduced a Venue Management School as well as an International Summer University.


Australia: We have begun establishing closer ties with our Australian members and the industry in the region.

Africa: We all look forward to our 84th UFI Global Congress in Johannesburg next month to learn about the unique character and opportunities in Africa. I am confident that we will keep this momentum with Craig Newman from South Africa as the next Incoming President. This should also boost the MEA chapter as a whole.

Andreas and Craig_1

Digitisation?! We worked very hard to better align the agenda, formats and focus of our UFI events to our members’ needs. New digital technology and rapidly changing customer behaviour and communication has become a hot topic.

New Talents?! For me, one of the highlights of my term was the opportunity to chair the jury for the selection of the “Next Generation Leaders” (many thanks to the inventors and sponsors). So many unique and talented personalities with great ideas and passion from all continents! We all need the young generations to be passionate about exhibitions and we need their innovative ideas for new formats, events and techniques.

Sans titre

New programmes, new services, new members … I have the support of an excellent and dedicated UFI team, led by Kai Hattendorf, in Paris, Hong Kong and in Sharjah to develop and work on these elements on your behalf – thanks to all of you!

Moreover I would like to thank the Trio: Sergey Alexeev, for his support as Outgoing President and in particular, for Global Exhibitions Day and Corrado Peraboni as the  Incoming President. What an honour these last twelve months have been for me. How I treasure the many new and stronger friendships and my list of „unforgettable moments“.

New Presidential Trio

I hope to give back to UFI as I continue to serve UFI were I can.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Johannesburg next month to enjoy a high quality programme as well as experience the cultural excitement which only Africa can create.
See you there!

An emerging exhibition market bursting with energy

October 3, 2017


Blogger: Mrs. Jaruwan Suwannasat Director, Exhibition and Events Department of TCEB

Thailand has made great efforts to reduce its dependence on imported and fossil fuel energy in recent years, doubling its production of renewable-energy to 30 per cent by 2036. The government aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 per cent in the same period; a bold commitment given Thailand’s fast growing and power hungry middle class.


The country is well positioned to lead the development of renewable energy in not just South East Asia but global markets, because today many trends are emerging that put Thailand front and centre of the development of renewable energy sources.

These trends include US and European regulations on trans-fat foods shifting demand towards non-soybean biofuels produced by countries such as Thailand and its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as the falling cost of solar power, which has led to a global power capacity increase of 305 gigawatts; up from around 50 gigawatts in 2010.

Another key energy industry emerging in the Southeast Asian market is the deployment of microgrids; small-scale, localised power stations than can operate independently of the central energy grid. These typically feed off renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, in addition to traditional fossil fuel generators, in more remote areas of the country.

So what does this mean for exhibition organisers seeking to make an impact in Thailand and South East Asia? Asia Power Week 2017, which took place in Bangkok on 19-21 September, was attended by Thailand’s Energy Vice Minister General Surasak Srisak who used the event to explain that Thailand’s ambitious goals mean the related parties “have to double their capacities”.

“It is significantly necessary for all sectors to join forces in order to make this national effort a success,” he said. “The Energy Ministry is delighted that Asia Power Week, marking its 25th anniversary, will support Thailand’s direction towards the future of energy sustainability under the Thailand 4.0 policy.”

Blob TCEB 10

Sustainable Energy and Technology Asia, which also took place in Bangkok in March, the Thailand Energy Saving Expo 2018 and June events Asian Utility Week 2018 and ASEAN Sustainable Energy Week 2018, also brought the industry together to champion modern, clean energy in a region increasingly dependent on locally derived power.

These exhibitions provide a platform for firms hoping to form the relationships that shape the future of power generation and power distribution industry in South East Asia and beyond.

Today Thailand is no longer simply a manufacturer of products pertaining to renewable energy, but an avid consumer; both exhibitors and buyers have an equal interest in exhibitions for the industry.

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