Smart city thinking; fresh ASEAN opportunity for exhibition organisers

December 7, 2017

Kanokporn 1

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

Much like the exhibitions we trade in, Smart Cities promote industrial development and digital innovation. As hubs for digital services able to connect foreign countries, they attract digital workers, investors and software companies from around the world.

The Phuket province will host the first smart city in Thailand, re-conceived around the notions of flexibility, ease of doing business and overseas investment, with an overall revision of potentially obstructive trading laws and regulations. The projects will be supported by the government through the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA); an institution most are unlikely to associate with such a project.

One of our shortlisted ‘MICE Cities’, Phuket has been selected for reasons including its high global ranking as a tourist city, an ICT infrastructure capable of supporting a fast, highly-stable communicative network, and its strategic positioning as an industrial city for high-technology businesses.

TCEB Blog Dec
Source: Software Industry Promotion Agency (Public Organization) (SIPA)

What will this development mean for exhibition organisers? A smart city in Phuket would conceivably generate additional business opportunities not only in terms of fostering start-up enterprise and the fast-tracking of a digital economy, but also in terms of the support structure that drives such enterprise – and which serves to improve the experience for any exhibition organiser.

The reason smart cities are of such interest to exhibition organisers is because they take an existing industrial and commercial objective, namely the creation of a city, and introduce new elements to the process as a result of a new set of requirements. They deliver not only bricks and mortar but an ecosystem and environment that supports the development of digital innovation.

Smart cities also create new exhibitors for existing events. Returning to Phuket, great opportunity now exists within the built environment for foreign suppliers of ICT optimisation services and communication systems, as well as building energy management and grid automation.

The prospect brings to mind the words of Daniel Zhang, group CEO of Alibaba who, while introducing the concept of Made in Internet, said: “We are moving from satisfying needs, to creating needs”.

Thailand has realised this and as a result established the Smart Cities Thailand Association in February last year, an effort to unite bodies with a vested interest in smart city management to provide greater understanding of related technologies. The notion also plays to our government’s Thailand 4.0 initiative; ushering in a new economy built on knowledge and exchange of information.

This new direction, combined with the existence of established Thai exhibitions such as Sustainable Energy & Technology Asia, Convergence Technologies Asia, Green Building & Retrofits Expo Asia and the recently concluded Secutech Thailand, will generate a host of new options for organisers focused on South East Asia.

According to UN projections, more than two thirds of the global population will live in cities by the year 2050. The development of smart cities and all their related technology is big business for our industry.

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.)


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.

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