How associations are adapting to a very different future

Guido Fornelli, newly elected IELA chair, tells EW in an exclusive interview what matters most for IELA 

What matters most post-pandemic in the exhibition and event logistic sector?

Over the past 20 months our association has had several initiatives focused on strategy like IELA RELOAD, GET FUTURE READY, CONNECTED MINDS and TAILWIND. We are very grateful to have had the top industry minds joining the discussions with great outcomes achieved. Now it is time to work on the three top priorities in the new normal that are key for a successful post-Covid-business era: 

- Reset of our cost structure 

- Focus on talent 

- Centre strategy on sustainability. 

How do you see cost-structure impacting the service providers?

Faced by the challenge of having new costs to share related to the recovery, the question is how can we convince governments to recognise this and help the supply chain recover? Special interest should be made on creating insurance programmes including covering costs accrued from last-minute show cancellations. 

Whether major players (organisers and venues) really can agree on general guidelines for collaboration in the new normal is crucial. Everybody should look for synergies in mitigating the impact of new safety protocols such as procuring and sharing sanitising equipment and systems for managing gatherings on the showgrounds. There is so much to be done together.

In certain countries, governments have strongly supported the exhibition and event industry but funding programmes were not always accessible to service providers. UFI’s Global Policy Leadership Series (GPLS) is a great start to catch up on this. 

Which actions are needed to cultivate the talent of tomorrow?

Our industry lost a fair number of valuable employees in the last 18 months and our focus should now be to retrain the workforce. 

One of IELA’s leitmotivs is excellence, therefore our commitment to education and training is paramount. We are already working on the next Operations Summit 2022 and are also ready to work on a joint project designed to attract new talent to our industry. New generations are looking for shorter working hours and more ‘project related’ jobs, mostly to create meaning in life and at work. We must highlight the strong sense of purpose that exists in our industry: We are the business which builds other business. 

There needs to be a new campaign launched internationally addressing our industry’s purpose. We should create a workforce database (a kind of market place), and include specific training on social media promotion tools for sales people etc. 

By using technologies, we can serve our customers better and make the work of logistics providers more interesting and appealing. Our teams love to serve smartly!

We must attract new talent for the digital transformation of our industry as well as create new alliances for the co-development of digital solutions. This important topic figures highly on the agenda of the IELA Board. 

How can the exhibition and event logistic industry centre strategy on sustainability?

A sustainable future is a strategic and operational imperative. IELA supports members to set up a sustainable structure that is right for their company. The development towards sustainable events as an industry is also important. The UFI Net Zero Carbon Events initiative will impact us all heavily. Today, forwarders do not provide carbon footprint measurements of all shipments (air/sea/land) but will this soon be a priority for all organisers? They are looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions and so are we. 

Transportation via electric vehicles will be the future, including on site with forklifts. Modular and recycled stand materials may be more environment-friendly (less waste) but more storage will be required unless the new stands take up less space. The subject of recyclable and reusable packing materials/crates is on the table as innovations emerge. 

The creation of new travelling solutions for freight between locations is an incredibly vast topic and we are still identifying the paths we should follow. We want to work closely with our industry partners for the reset of the exhibition industry. Each crisis has two sides of the coin: ‘the crisis’ and ‘the opportunities’. I look forward to talking with our industry peers to identify together the way forward during the 88th UFI Congress in Rotterdam.