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Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director, raises big questions and reflects on different discussions in his most recent UFI Column featured in Exhibition World (Issue 3 | 2018), online now.

The second quarter of the year is the busiest time of the year for most of us, and it is not different for the UFI team. 
Whether it’s travelling to our own events and membership meetings around the world, or for industry conferences and strategy meetings, the UFI team has been spending much time in airports and train stations around the globe.

Reflecting on the different discussions and developments, one question remains at the forefront of my mind: how do we present ourselves as an industry?

The answer to this question matters, and has bearing on all the strategic and operational issues – within our teams, our companies, at our events, with our customers, but also with political stakeholders, and in society. 

UFI is one of the 16 global and international associations that work together within the Joint Meetings Industry Council or JMIC. The purpose of this group is to develop and steer conversations with the policymakers that drive our industry. In the first half of May, we met for two days to discuss how we as an industry could effectively move forward. But one of the main obstacles when talking to institutions like the World Trade Organisation is surprisingly simple: We struggle to explain, clearly and concisely, who we are as an industry, and what we stand for. We struggle to show the values we generate – directly and indirectly – through trade, and in acquiring knowledge. Activities like Global Exhibitions Day are successfully moving the needle, but there is still a long way to go.

I am very happy that we managed to unanimously agree on a joint description for our industry, a “song book”, if you wish, that we can use across the industry associations that clearly describes who we are. The draft we worked on had been created jointly by members from UFI and ICCA in a joint two-day gathering at RAI Amsterdam in late August 2017, showing also here the value of collaboration across associations in the wider business events industry.

As diverse as the activities within this broad business events industry, is the potential to evolve within our part of it, the exhibitions world. Within our world, business and opportunities have grown when new roads were taken, scopes were widened, and wider, more diverse talents used.

As your global association, UFI’s approach was recently described as “an era of firsts” – a term I find very fitting. We constantly evolve and diversify our structures and offerings to serve you even better.

One of the most visible examples is the evolution of the UFI presidency. Again, it is how we present ourselves to attract support and interest for all things exhibitions.

UFI has seen many firsts in recent years, highlighting the changing momentum within the global industry: Xianjin Chen serving as our first Chinese president; Andrés López-Valderrama as the first president from Latin America; Sergey Alexeev as the first from Russia; and Craig Newman as the first from Africa.

For 2020, UFI is aiming for yet another first: by welcoming a representative from the US as UFI President, and a woman as well: Mary Larkin from Diversified Communications.

The majority of people working in the global exhibitions and events industry are women, but as of today, few women hold top leadership positions. Networks like Women in Exhibitions have formed to foster networks and dialogue to address this, whilst opening up new opportunities for our industry to grow.

Ahead of IMEX in Frankfurt in mid-May, a half day conference was held, entitled She Means Business, bringing together 400 participants, among which one fifth were men, by the way.

Herein lies a strong core message: It is a joint task for everyone to make our business attractive and successful, and diversity in leadership across genders and cultures is key to doing just that.

Industry terminology and leadership diversity – as far apart as they may seem to be – are both critical as to how we wish to present ourselves as an industry in the most attractive and comprehensible way to our customers, policymakers, and our staff.

UFI will continue to foster and support this. 


Read Kai Hattendorf’s column in the latest edition of Exhibition World, online now.

Exhibition World Guest Author

Exhibition World hosts great guests on its pages. Our Expert Opinion section is a unique collection of the best ideas from the best professionals in the international events industry.


Exhibition World hosts great guests on its pages. Our Expert Opinion section is a unique collection of the best ideas from the best professionals in the international events industry.

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