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.

Do Sports Metaphors Translate to The Management of Business Teams?

November 4, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

Gerard Houllier is the Global Sporting Director for Red Bull Soccer, France. During his illustrious career he was also the head coach for many winning soccer teams. Houllier delivered the opening keynote at this year’s Congress in Bogotá, Columbia. During his presentation he revealed 11 of his 29 well-tested ingredients for managing successful teams. His eleven were:

  • Goals – Well articulated goals give the team a common vision and philosophy.
  • Work – It is important to work with consistency.
  • Attitude – Your attitude as a leader will develop the best of your team’s talents.
  • Enjoyment – Better results come with a good working atmosphere
  • Positive – A happier organization is more efficient
  • Adaptability – It is important to adapt for the future
  • Competitiveness – The will to win is as important as the skill to win
  • Communications – When things go wrong, blame the action and not the author
  • Leadership – A leader is the one who makes people on the team pull in the same direction
  • Team Pride – A feeling of pride in the team creates a feeling of belonging
  • Confidence – Each member of the team needs to know that they are important.

It’s hard to argue with the validity of any of these eleven ingredients. I think his genius as a coach provides an underlying lesson to us all that when we find ways of integrating all eleven our business team will be more effective, better motivated and ultimately more successful. To me, using this sports metaphor fits the business management model perfectly.

How healthy is the exhibition industry?

October 23, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

I am looking forward to attending this year’s Congress in Bogota, Columbia. It will be my fifth Congress. One of the highlights for me has always been Jochen Witt’s overview of the exhibition industry.  I am not usually a fan of a presentation that includes lots of statistics, but Jochen’s presentation style and passion have kept me glued to each of his sessions year after year. I spoke to Jochen about this year’s remarks. Here is what he told me:


How has the state of the exhibition business changed from last year?


Even though growth seems to have been slightly below expectations, our industry once again has proved to be very resilient in a rather volatile environment.


What is your prediction for the future?


Unfortunately I don’t see the global economy becoming more stable in the next year. The European financial crisis is far from being over and new crisis spots in Ukraine, Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and North and Central Africa have emerged.  Thus two of the largest impediments to growth, loss of confidence and freedom of travel are very much affected. There was a recent article in the Financial Times titled “The world is marching back from globalization”. While I find this title somewhat exaggerated, it shows at least the volatility we have ahead of us.


What factors should the industry be monitoring?


The overarching theme of the UFI Congress in Bogota is “Fit to Compete”. Interestingly, this theme can reference our industry as a whole or all those companies, organizers, venue owners/managers or service providers, which are active in our industry. In preparation for the Congress we at JWC have discussed what topics may be considered most important to being “Fit to Compete” and we came up with a list of eight factors or focus areas. Those factors are:

  1. Branding (of companies/shows),
  2. HR;
  3. Costs,
  4. IT,
  5. M&A,
  6. Processes and Organization,
  7. Pricing,
  8. Products and Offerings.

Of course it can be argued whether other focus areas such as Data Management, which should also be watched, but we felt that those factors mentioned above would well represent what is becoming most important for our industry.

We have started a survey amongst many individuals active in our industry to understand their views on these different topics. We will present the survey results at the Congress in Bogota.

If you haven’t done so already, check out the complete agenda for UFI’s 81st Congress in Bogota, Columbia.

Are Exhibitions Obsolete?

October 21, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

How many times have you heard companies complain about shrinking exhibition budgets and at the same time seem to invest heavily in new technologies such as social media? Have exhibitions lost their appeal? Is there a negative perception about exhibitions in the marketing mix? Are exhibitions viewed as yeaterday’s marketing tool? Do exhibitions have a dwindling application on business in the future?

These are questions that plague us daily. At this year’s 81st UFI Congress, Christer Haglund, the managing director of Messukeskus, Helsinki, Finland will address this issue in a session entitled, Is Your Business Fit to Compete.

Messukeskus is an interesting organization. It’s Vision and Values statement that is filled with words like genuine, appealing to senses, rewarding, memorable, tangible and engaging – words that seldom appear in such documents but are music to the ears of people who come in contact with Messukeskus. So, to have someone like Christer talk about competitiveness opens the doors to what can be an interesting and informative discussion.

In Christer’s seminar description he wrote, “Do your kids think the exhibition business is old fashion?” It’s a great question because I believe that there is a real perception that exhibitions are old fashion and about to be replaced by cooler technologies that are being quickly developed. I asked Christer how he would respond. Here is what he told me:

“Today’s kids are the decision makers and visitors at future exhibitions and events and in order to keep them interested in our business, we need keep their perception of our business positive.

Wouldn’t we all like to peek into a crystal ball to see a glimpse of the future for our businesses? The big trends of the future already exist. It’s the small signals and tendencies that still remain unnoticed by most people. Trends can also be created, and weak signals can be strengthened.  Agile companies who are able to predict at the right time changes in human values and attitudes and thereby market changes will be tomorrow’s winners. That is how successful companies have always operated, and that is how they will operate in the future. Fortunately, interactive and inspiring communications is one of the major trends of our time. For our business this means including consumers in product development. This is great news for the oldest and most social of all social media – the exhibition media.

Success in the future will require modernization of our business; exhibitions, content, facilities and branding. Younger decision makers are looking for new marketing strategies. Some think that conventional exhibitions are outdated, but they still want to meet face to face with their present customers and potential new ones. The challenge for us is to cater for those new needs.

There is also much discussion about social media and how it will affect our business. I came from the airline business and when the social media made its break through, many thought that it would cut down the need for flying.  But the opposite happened – social media generated more flying.  I do not see social media as an enemy, more as a partner. The more time people spend in front of their computers, Ipad and smart telephones, the more they want real encounters. And that is our business!

What you really need is a vision of the future in order to make the best possible decisions on strategy and investments. Yesterday’s numbers won’t indicate what tomorrow, let alone the day after tomorrow, will look like. Charles Darwin once stated, ‘It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.’ Times they are a changing, and Darwin’s quote is painfully relevant for many businesses today.”

I am looking forward to listening to Christer when he addresses the participants at UFI’s 81st Congress in Bogota, Columbia. To read the complete description of Christer’s talk and see the great line-up of other speakers and activities click here:

Distinguished football coach to keynote at UFI’s 81st Congress.

October 7, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

UFI’s 81st Congress in Bogota, Columbia, is only a few short weeks away. From October 28 to November 1st , UFI members will have a once a year opportunity to network with colleagues and peers, share ideas and learn from industry experts. This year’s keynote speaker is Gérard Houllier who has managed Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Olympique Lyonnais, and Aston Villa, as well as the French National Team. Currently he is the Head of Global Football for Red Bull.

What does a football coach have to teach us? The answer is that there are direct parallels between what it takes to coach a successful football team and a team of professionals who plan and execute an exhibition.   Sports metaphors have always been a powerful motivator and keen teacher of principles that can be applied to everyday life and business. The exhibition industry has gone through some challenging times during the past few years, one of the messages Gérard will bring us is that “Nothing great is achieved in life without effort and enthusiasm.”  This applies during both good times and bad.  What the exhibition industry and sporting events have in common is the same strategy which Gérard concisely states as, “Fail to prepare…prepare to fail.”

Football games are not won by a single player and neither is an exhibition. Gérard says that both sports and exhibition industry players “win as a team and lose when played alone”.

If you’re interested in seeing the full 81st UFI Congress programme, take a look here:

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