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.


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:

Inspiring ideas to recharge your exhibition

December 18, 2014

Posted by
Barry Siskind
UFI’s Community Manager

What does it take to develop creative ideas? Sometimes it requires a trip back to the beginning and changing everything. In other instances it may require a small amount of tweaking of existing plans. Biz Bash’s Mitra Sorrells & Martha C. White wrote an interesting post titled, The 15 Most Innovative Meetings of 2014.

Their list includes examples of not for profits and for profits events. Some of the ideas were:
• Reducing the content and increasing space for networking.
• Charitable initiatives in partnership with speakers and local hotels
• A gift exchange where guest were invited to bring a gift that was related to their country to a “take one/leave one” table.

Many of us struggle as we look for new and interesting ideas to inject into our plans. This list of 15 should give you some inspiration.

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:

What’s new with Audience Response Systems

September 18, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

 It seems like not much time has passed when I was sitting in the audience of a conference I was attending listening to a keynote presenter who was asking their audience’s opinions. I remember that we were handed a small device as we entered the room. There were buttons on the face of the device and we could answer the speaker’s questions with a yes or no. Then in a flash our collective responses were displayed at the front of the room.

 So much has happened in those few short years. The speed and sophistication of audience response systems (ARS) has matched the growth of technology. Now the question many organizers wrestle with is finding the right ARS that will work in their unique situation.

I read an interesting post on TSNN’s “techcorner,” that addressed this issue. The author stated that regardless of the user’s type of mobile phone and the Wi-Fi available in the exhibit hall, there are solutions that will work.  The post is an interesting overview of the current state of ARS options including the ability of incorporating “Real time analytics on the back end.” The post provides organizers with insights into how an audience responds to certain information and speakers that can be used when planning future educational sessions.

 If you are considering adding an ARS to your speaker program, this is an enlightening post.


20 Visitor Retention Tactics

September 2, 2014

Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

To paraphrase an old saying “It’s less expensive to keep an existing customer than find a new one.” We all understand the importance of ensuring that visitors keep coming back to our exhibitions year after year.

While retaining 100% of the visitors may not be realistic, increasing efforts to bring them back has to have a positive effect on your exhibition’s bottom line.

I found an interesting post on that dealt with this very issue. The author listed 20 suggestions for visitor retention in four distinct areas:

At the event. These are initiatives that are implemented during the event and include such things as:  Gamification, announcements of future dates and checking real-time analytics.

After the event- Short term initiatives include such suggestions as brain-dumping, questionnaires and social media. 

After the event – Long term initiatives include soliciting ideas, the strategic use of content and understanding and using web analytics.

Planning Next Year’s Event. Included here are such things as offering on-line alternatives, marketing to existing visitors as well as soliciting new ones, and change those elements of the exhibition that are not working.

It’s a well-thought out post and would be worth your while to look it over.


Mobile strategies

August 19, 2014

Posted by
Barry Siskind
UFI’s Community Manager

A recent post by The Exhibition Industry Newsfeed caught my attention. The title of the post was 5 Mobile Advertising Strategies that Work.

What I liked is that the strategies not only applied to organizers but are also valuable for our exhibitors. Mobile advertising is growing in leaps and bounds. According to the post, in 2013 companies tripled their mobile advertising budgets over the previous year and expect this number to grow an additional 65% in the next year.

The five strategies are:

1. Go Beyond Banners
Banner advertising has worked so well in the past, many viewers now suffer from what is known as “Banner-ad blindness.”

2. Invest in In-App Ads
Smartphone and tablet users turn to their apps first when they engage their devices

3. Go Local
According to the author, “mobile ads are the perfect channel for any business with a local component.”

4. Start with Facebook and Google
Deciding on the right channel is difficult because there are simply too many. Starting with the established Facebook and Google seems like a good place to begin a mobile strategy.

5. Target, Target, Target
Customers have a low tolerance for information that is irrelevant to them. Information that is targeted to their needs has a much greater chance of being viewed.

Take a look at this post. These five steps can be helpful for you as well as your exhibitors.

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