Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director, writes about the need for collaboration in his latest UFI Column featured in Exhibition World (Issue 4 | 2018).
For the first time in the past ten years, all four global regions have reported a positive turnover development. More importantly, in terms of operating profit, most companies maintained a good level of performance in 2017, and more than 40 per cent of companies from all regions declared an increase of more than 10 per cent when compared with 2016.
However, the prospects for 2018 are currently lower globally, with 37 per cent of companies expecting a profit increase of more than 10 per cent. So while there is still a very healthy share of companies that expect their profits to rise by more than 10 per cent in 2019, this share of optimistic companies is generally lower than one year ago. This indicates a rather more cautious approach in light of international developments.
The top reasons for this are economic concerns both in the home market and globally – and competition from within the industry.
Let’s put aside the ongoing discussion in our industry of consolidation as a driver of competition, and review the topic in the wider framework of business events and other marketing channels.
For a while we have seen the business models of exhibitions and conferences getting closer to each other – with ConfEx formats on the rise. We see that many of the fastest-growing business events are driven by communities that want to meet – in formats that are a mix of festivals, conferences, and trade shows – generating the growing trend for festivalisation.
Here the quality of the visitors attending is making it highly attractive for companies to invest in a presence, but the focus of the organisers lies with their visitors initially and not – as in the traditional exhibition model – with the exhibitor.
These developments bring challenges to organiser and venue alike, and there are valuable insights available in other business events sectors.
I am writing this column on my way back from Singapore, where I attended the annual MICE Forum organised by SACEOS. Faced with the challenges of change, they decided to invite a select group of corporate, association and industry representatives from around the world to reflect on what the business meetings industry in 2030 might look like ahead of the main conference.
They structured their approach around seven key areas and formulated their views and recommendations, which became the draft of what they call ‘The Singapore Manifesto’. This covers topics including people, technology, relationships, destinations, sales, business models and ecosystems.
The segment on business models strikes a chord. It states: “Business models will be driven by networks, platforms, communities and data. Effective organisations need to be well-versed in these areas. Speed and agility – adapting to emerging trends – will be everything. And brands with compelling stories will be an important differentiator: they must be purpose-driven and authentic, offering emotional connections and experiences…”
While the business model of exhibitions is certainly not broken, the coming years will see new elements rising and others disappearing.
As formats continue to converge, there will be opportunities – and needs – for new and deeper collaboration across sectors.
UFI is already underway on this path. We are actively building connections with global sister associations serving other sectors of the business meetings industry. Last summer, as an example, we arranged a joint workshop for ICCA and UFI members in Amsterdam, to work on ‘future-proofing’ exhibitions and conferences through collaborative ideas. You can rely on us to continue on this path, to help you to navigate the changing expectations of your customers.