EW meets the 2022 NGL Grant winners

EW sat down with the winners of the Next Generation Leadership Grant at the UFI European Conference

UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, has named the six winners of its 2022 Next Generation Leadership Grant (NGL).

The UFI NGL Grant promotes young leadership in the exhibition industry, rewarding professionals who show clear initiatives in driving change and innovation in their area of activity.

EW editorial director, Martin Fullard, caught up with the recipients of the award at the UFI European Conference,
4-6 May, in Poznań, Poland.

Monika Baro

Company: VNU Exhibitions Asia Pacific

Role: Project manager

Country: Thailand

What does winning the NGL Grant mean to you?

Firstly, it’s aligned to the objective of my events, which is to shape the next generation in terms of how they can contribute towards game changing disaster and emergency management. So, with the Grant, I’m thrilled to be able to shape the young generation’s mindset towards contributing tangible impact through the exhibitions and events industry.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the industry?

One of the biggest issues is how the pandemic revealed that our industry can be volatile and suscepitble to disasters and other types of crises.

We need to start bringing solutions that attract and retain global talent.

Daniella Galante

Company: RX Africa

Role: Senior digital marketing executive

Country: South Africa

How have you found the process and the mentoring of the programme?

Everything happened so quickly. I found out about getting on the programme around one or two weeks ago [before the conference].

I’m excited for what’s to come. I’ve met my fellow mentees, and they’re all amazing. We have already connected, and we’ve discussed visiting each other in our respective countries. I’m excited for the next eight months to learn more from each other.

How will the programme tackle the issues facing the exhibition industry?

The programme is looking at redefining the talent narrative. It’s looking at the important issue of why people have left the industry and how we can get those people back.

Joseph Kowalsky

Company: Emerald X

Role: Show director

Country: US

What does it mean to you getting this grant?

It means I’m not crazy. A lot of what I put into my grant application were things that I’m applying to my events, communities and brands.

What is the biggest issue the industry is facing?

I think that we’re dealing with an image problem. Everyone wants to pigeonhole us as the ‘events industry’, but as we’ve seen over the past two years, we need to be so much more than that.

I believe we need to rebrand ourselves from the ‘events industry’ to the ‘community building industry’. Then use that brand to attract talent to do the thing that we’re actually doing, which is bringing people together and facilitating opportunities for businesses to thrive.

Justine Rabel

Company: Eventmaker

Role: Key account manager

Country: France

What does winning the NGL Grant mean to you?

I joined the exhibition industry as an event technology provider. For me, being a part of this programme means that event technology is considered as a huge component in organising trade shows and its business model.

What issues do you think most challenge the industry?

One of the challenges is to do with data. During the pandemic, organisers were able to collect a lot of data from virtual events. They were forced to ask themselves a lot of questions: ‘who owns this data?’; ‘what should we do with it?’

I think the next step is deciding what to do with this data and how it can make our events more meaningful and meet the end goals of our stakeholders.

Maria Victoria Piñeres

Company: Costa Rica Convention Center

Role: Operations manager

Countries: Costa Rica/ Colombia

What does the NGL Grant mean to you?

An opportunity to get out there, do networking and meet people from across the industry. Being a Latin American woman who has operated in Colombia and Costa Rica, and who at a young age has had the opportunity to work at numerous convention centres, I’m able to bring into the industry a new perspective from a different generation and region.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the industry?

I think the biggest issue facing the industry is coming up to date with what is happening. The industry is great at adapting, but we’re a little behind when seeing things in advance. We should not wait until something happens but be a mile forward so that we’re ready for whatever is thrown at us next.

Jon Yahirun

Company: Clarion Events

Role: Customer success manager

Country: US

What are you hoping to get from the UFI European Conference?

I think inspiration is a huge part. I’m proud to have won the Grant, but I’m looking forward to a long journey of learning much more about the industry as a result of my participation in the programme.

Education is vital for me to grow.

In an age of digital transformation as a result of the pandemic, do you believe there still a desire for people to attend live events?

Absolutely. I think there is a clear desire for human connection that really can’t be replaced by event technology.

Event technology will help bring people together, but it will not replace the interaction that people have during live events.