Making space to showcase Africa’s culture and economic opportunity

December 4, 2017

Antony RC

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

If the 84th UFI Global Congress in Johannesburg last month made one thing clear about Africa’s appeal to global exhibition organisers, it’s that while appetites may be whetted; work needs to be done to make much of the continent accessible.


According to Carol Weaving, Chairperson of Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) and MD of Reed Exhibitions Africa, delegates were clearly investigating which African countries offered stability and room to grow their shows, the venues to house them and the industry sectors on which to focus.

“International organisers got a feel for the African market and environment, where relationships are key and things do not work the same as in the established economies many of them came from,” she told me after the event. “New market entrants need to understand the environment and have an appreciation for the local cultures, economies, markets and languages that make each country in Africa so unique.”


According to the World Bank, the continent’s largest economies Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola are seeing a rebound from the sharp slowdown of last year, but their recovery has been slow as a result of insufficient adjustment to lower commodity prices and policy uncertainty. In its Africa Competitiveness Report 2017: Addressing Africa’s Demographic Dividend, published together with the World Economic Forum and African Development Bank, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs needed in Africa in the next 20 years will be created if current policies remain unchanged.

The report, which covers North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, claims further economic stagnation is likely “in the absence of improvements in the core conditions for competitiveness”.

Perhaps exhibitions and related business events, with their ability to foster competition, industrial growth and jobs can play their part. But to do this, organisers need some space to play.

I recall a conversation a few years back with Montgomery MD Damion Angus, who told me that Nigeria was at one time home to a 6,500sqm venue that he believed was the most expensive venue on the planet at the time. International-standard venue space comes at a premium on a continent where little of it exists, and whether it’s a matter of availability or price, international organisers face quite an obstacle to entry without the large venues to support them.

“While Africa may have a shortage of venues, it does have first-world facilities in certain areas,” Weaving said. “In addition, while scale may be difficult to achieve initially and returns are potentially low at the start of a new project, the market continues to mature and anyone can leverage the first mover advantage to truly cement their position in this dynamic and growing market.”


What is certain is that Africa has much to offer exhibition organisers, both to local economies and international guests and organisers. The key to success is to partner with industry bodies like AAXO and the convention bureaus that can assist them in gaining credibility in the market, training their staff and offering insights into the market place.


Thank you for placing your trust in me

November 30, 2017


Blogger: Corrado Peraboni, UFI President

It is my sincere pleasure to address you all here for the first time as your UFI president. Thanks to all of you for placing your trust in me.

I will do my best to represent all of you and UFI as a whole, and to work for our wonderful industry in this special and unique role over the next twelve months.

During the past year, as incoming president, I took the time to look very closely at our association. I worked with Sergey and Andreas, as well as with Kai and the entire UFI team, on the priorities and on the projects at UFI. As a result of this close and ongoing collaboration, today I feel prepared to share with you my ideas and thoughts for the year ahead.

UFI has a clear positioning as the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Our association is unique in its role as our industry’s global institution.

UFI has grown to be a truly global association with membership in 86 countries, covering all continents, and almost 60 national and regional exhibition associations that are members. We once again experienced the outstanding effects of this unique global network just earlier this month at our Global Congress in Johannesburg, and I want to thank our host, Craig Newman, his team, and everyone involved for making it a Congress to  remember!

At the closing of the Congress, I explained the areas where I want to be most active as your president. Let me summarise them here as well:

Global reach and membership development
First, concerning UFI’s global reach and membership development: Our association has grown a lot over the last two years. We have seen growth of around 5% both in 2016 and 2017. Today, we have 750+ members, and represent more than 50,000 industry professionals.

member by region

I want to support the continued growth of UFI membership around the world. We expect to see further membership growth in Asia and the Pacific region. However, in  established markets like Italy, there are still some major players who are not yet part of UFI –mainly associations running trade shows. I want to work to bring them into the UFI community.

The Americas chapter is our fastest growing one, and we will work to serve our growing membership better in the region as part of our project to “glocalise” UFI’s work.  Additionally, now that we have just held an amazing UFI Global Congress in the MEA chapter, in Johannesburg, we will focus on growing the African presence in UFI, together with our new incoming president, Craig Newman. With respects to the promotion of our industry, I believe that our promotional activities should be focused on two main targets:
finding new talents among young people and making them aware that our industry is an attractive one in which they can achieve their own ambitions.

Exhibition Industry Advocay
We can reach out to schools and universities, raise more awareness for the career opportunities that we, as an industry, have to offer. One of the main channels we can use to promote our industry is the Global Exhibitions Day (GED).


GED can also be an effective way to reach decision makers in politics and other stakeholder groups. We’ll try to identify the best practices used by our different members and turn them into a “GED guide” that will include specific actions that can be replicated in our respective countries.

In addition, with digitisation driving change in our industry, I want to work on tools and processes that help UFI members to validate and guide their digital investments. Also, we currently have data on and measure key metrics around the physical show floor, but we do not specifically measure the ROI of online interactions. I believe it is worth exploring how we can change this.

In closing, let me get back to networking, which is a core element of UFI’s activities: UFI’s global roster of events is second to none in our industry, and these events are the most important meetings for our industry leaders of today and tomorrow.

2018 will see the launch of the first-ever UFI Latin-American Conference, in line with the growth of our membership in that region. And a special focus lies on the Global CEO Summit, UFI’s annual curtain raiser for the most senior industry leaders.

We are always striving to reinvent this event and I very much look forward to it because the new format for 2018 has been tailored to the feedback from many organiser CEOs in our industry.

I look forward to working for all of you, and with all of you, as your president in the coming year.

Re-Engaging Exhibition Critics

November 28, 2017


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

Exhibitions are more than just a marketplace. They are an annual gathering of a community – trade or public. And when done right, the community takes ownership of the event, which is simultaneously amazing – and terrifying.


Amazing because attendees become super fans and evangelists. They are invested all the way. They tell everyone they know how wonderful your exhibition is. How much they look forward to going every year. It’s “their” event. Terrifying because as super fans, they think they know what’s best for the event on every level – including content creation, operations, and marketing – even though they are not in the face-to-face event business. Some are so passionate, that they become hypercritical and don’t hesitate to share their opinions.


Your exhibition is THE meeting place of the industry in your country, region or perhaps the world. Because it is the place to be, it grows. As a result, changes happen. More education. More space. More people attending and exhibiting require more rules. A move to a new venue or even a different city may come into play. Unfortunately, some people will take these changes as a personal affront. They become detractors. Complainers. Their dislike for the new, expanded version of the exhibition is directly proportional to the amount they adored it.

How do we re-engage our former evangelists and now detractors? Sometimes, a personal touch works. Having a show director call a critic may be an enlightening experience for both sides. Finding out why long time attendees no longer make the journey may lead be symptomatic of being out of touch with the industry. Or not. Perhaps provide targeted programming or special networking sessions or reverse mentoring for old-timers.

What does your team do to make critics feel valued, special and bring them back into the fold?

For a deeper discussion on this subject, please join us Thursday, Dec. 7th for #UFIChat  (11am New York, 5pm Paris) where we will discuss the latest UFI-Explori insights into Exhibitor Net Promoter Scores on Twitter.

 Photos: Sinking ship:; supporters:

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”.

He 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.)


Make Global Exhibitions Day global

April 11, 2016


Blogger: Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director

We are two months away from “Global Exhibitions Day“, so today I want to share with you the latest news on how people all around the world are getting ready to send a joint message about the importance of the exhibition industry.

Global Exhibitions Day is a combination of all our efforts. It is an invitation to promote the value of our industry, together, with a single and cohesive voice.

ged_logo_date-1 (1)

More than 30 associations, dozens of UFI members – organisers, venues and service providers – and hundreds of individuals have already pledged their support for this initiative. From Sao Paulo to Shanghai, from Scandinavia to South Africa, people are getting involved to celebrate our industry on 8 June. From our Paris headquarters we are supporting and connecting numerous efforts to host events, invite VIPs, and create special moments to share what makes the exhibitions industry special.

These include a Conference and Gala Dinner in Hong Kong organised by HKECIA, special “spotlight events“ in Australia organised through EEAA in connection with their annual Leaders Forum, a RUEF Conference in Moscow, and a celebration in Poland on the occasion of the ITM exhibition organised by Poznán International Fair. Also on 8 June, US colleagues will talk to lawmakers on Capital Hill at the US Exhibition Day together with an alliance of US associations brought together by IAEE. Germany’s Institute for the Trade Fair Industry, part of AUMA, will host a special open house for professors and students. The UFI International Summer University will also kick off in Cologne, bringing together top executives and future leaders of the trade fair industry for three days of learning about the customer journey.

Besides the events, there is a lot of activity in online communities and social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn. From CEOs to trainees, people are sharing their perspectives and passions for our industry, and helping to spread the word. Want to see for yourself? Click here.

If you want to get involved as well, it is easy, and on behalf of everyone in the exhibition industry, I want to ask you to do so. Anything you can do to contribute to the greater impact of our initiative will help to promote the exhibition industry.

Here are just some ideas of what you can do to support #GED16:

  • You can add the #GED16 logo to your email signature and other communication materials;
  • You might film a ‘highlights’ video from behind the scenes of the exhibition industry;
  • You can look for regional events to join on #GED16;
  • You can collect and share quotes / interviews from your staff and clients on their highlights of working within the exhibition industry. E.g. what was their best exhibition experience or the most significant moment in their career.

Thank you in advance for your support and activities. Let’s work together on our industry’s future!

Finally today, while talking about the future, let me draw your attention to UFI’s new “Next Generation Leadership Grant“ that we have just announced and that is made possible through the valuable support of Reed Exhibitions. With this grant, we plan to give some of the most outstandingly talented exhibition professionals the chance to have their say in the future of our industry.

Marketing trends and exhibitor behaviour

May 5, 2015

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

This year’s UFI Open Seminar in Europe will be held June 15-17 in Istanbul, Turkey. Andre Hoeben, Chief Operating Officer for Netherlands based Gielissen Exhibition and Event Services will moderate the event.  The theme this year is “Competing for the marketing budget – the future position of exhibitions in the marketing mix.” Andre will also be leading a panel discussion focused on marketing trends and exhibitor behaviour. I reached Andre in his office and asked him, from his perspective, what trends members of our industry need to be watching.

Here is what he said:

The first trend is a shift from exhibitions to corporate events. Specifically, in the ICT, this trend is most noticeable. This is a big threat for  the traditional exhibitions (organizers), as companies which choose to invest in corporate events will target their audience carefully and widely and also do major product introductions  at their own events. Participation in exhibitions will be limited. Social media will continue to play an increasingly important role because it seems to be more effective for dedicated corporate events, compared to “mass” exhibitions.

A second trend is the focus on customer journey. More and more exhibitors need to analyze their customer’s journey. Most companies go multichannel, for sales as well as promotion. Choices on how to spend the marketing funds is more and more linked to the specific customer journeys. We still come across exhibitors who have no clue about their customer’s journey. This of course offers us an opportunity, helping them to discover what the real journey is. But it also means that media companies / organizers need to be aware of their customers (the exhibitors) journey.

Number three is resources (money and people) which are deployed year over year and will be linked to actual economic balance. Reduction of profitability will immediately cut budgets for exhibitions. “A” exhibitions will not be impacted that much, as reduction of funds will mainly be on “B” and “C” shows. The vast number of exhibitions and events they can choose from leads to fragmentation. High-end brands (e.g. automobile industry) will reduce the number of shows in which they participate rather than lower their brand image by diluting their marketing resources.

The forth trend is the “fight” between corporate identity and local brand recognition. Central marketing departments are increasingly focused on getting the corporate message across, claiming funds from local brands and pushing for uniformity. On the other hand each brand is looking to maximizing its own identity, even being competitive with another brand from the same corporation.

Andre’s perspective should open the door to a lively discussion in Istanbul but we don’t have to wait until June to comment. What do you think the key trends our industry faces today are?

For more information on UFI’s Open Seminar in Europe click here:

Beginning the attendee journey

April 26, 2015

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

Much has been written about the “attendee experience,” recently I read a blog post on the My Industry tracker recently that described it as the “attendee journey.”

Blogger Robin Gallegos describes the attendee journey as a careful examination of each step the attendees takes as they interact with an event or exhibition.  That’s everything from registration to the follow-up surveys.

The first step is registration and according to the author if that goes smoothly it sets the tone for the rest of the journey. The author offered eight steps to make the journey less cumbersome. They include:

Get rid of paper

Most organizers have opted for on-line registration but the process isn’t always fool-proof. Some registration systems were designed for the organizers’ need for information rather than the attendees need for simplicity.

Encourage groups

Organizers used to provide group discounts all the time. Yet, in some cases this practice has fallen by the way side. If you can entice multiple registrations and encourage attendees to register all at once, it is cost effective for you and saves them lots of time.

Put the attendees in the driver’s seat

Have you included allowances for attendees to customize their experience? This can include personal preferences for hotels, meals and entertainment as well as the products they wish to see and the educational sessions they wish to attend.

Do the work for the registrants

The author suggest using “auto-recall options,” whenever possible. For your returning attendees this allows them to quickly see what they had done in the past and focus on what they wish to accomplish in the future.

Re-confirm and reduce no-shows

Whether they have paid or not, people change their minds. You want to eliminate these no-shows as much as possible with constant reminders.

Make networking easier

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has identified networking as one of the primary motivators for attendees. You can complement this need by organizing networking activities that starts the minute they register.

Build better badges

Badges need to tell more than a name, position and company. QR codes allow the availability of a richer cache of information that the attendees can share with exhibitors as well as other visitors.

Make every question relevant

Are the questions you are asking on the registration form relevant? Do you need all of it  or can it be streamlined?


If you engage the attendee from the get-go, you greatly enhance their “journey” and ultimately make for a more rewarding time and investment for everyone.

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