Despite increasing geopolitical uncertainty, the exhibition industry is on track to deliver solid growth this year on a global scale – while also putting the building blocks in place for a successful future in areas as diverse as corporate culture and strategy, talent development, new exhibition and event formats and enhanced venues.
A recent European Exhibition Industry Alliance (EEIA) survey found that, in Europe alone, more than €5bn is being invested in upgrading and expanding venue spaces and capacities within the next 10 years, with the aim of securing Europe’s place as a leading host for successful international exhibitions and events.
But the money does not only go into bricks and mortar – top of the infrastructure investments list for most venue operators are measures to make venues ready for more digital operations and services.
There are a number of trends to take into account when we discuss future needs in our industry. One is the changing role of exhibitions.
As exhibitors put less emphasis on signing deals on the show floor, and focus more on branding, customer dialogue and industry exchange, we’re seeing the rise of the ‘confex’ model where exhibitions are adding conference elements.
At the same time, the expectations of visitors are changing, as the UFI & Explori Global Visitor Insights report shows.
As Europe is both a mature and competitive market, organisers are constantly under pressure to deliver the right mix of quality, innovation and relevance in their events.
Exhibition visitors in Europe are more critical towards the exhibition they attend than visitors in other parts of the world. And where visitors are dissatisfied, organisers must commit to reinventing their products in fundamental ways to ensure they stay fresh and relevant for their target audiences.
This puts venues in the spotlight in two ways: Where shows need changes, the venues must be flexible enough to work with the organiser to deliver flexible use of space, a broad variety of services and the right culture of collaboration.
And where shows are going well, features such as fast and reliable wifi, high quality catering and sustainability in operations are becoming widely expected commodities in most parts of the industry in Europe.
With all of this under discussion in boardrooms and project teams across Europe, in our industry, and beyond, we have built the programme for this year’s European Conference around this issue.
From 10-12 May in Cologne Germany, we will meet to discuss how organisers are re-shaping their strategies, structures and cultures.
We will look at how meeting spaces are expected to look in the future, and make comparisons with a case study from Asia.
With so much talk in our industry about ‘disruptive’ event formats like Burning Man or South by SouthWest, we’ll bring the experts’ view on meeting formats in the United States. And we’ll not forget the visitor side of the equation.
I invite you to join us in Cologne this May, for two days quality content, as well as opportunities to network – ranging from a casual get together at the Rheinterrassen, to an evening high above the city, to a morning run along Europe’s mightiest river.