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IELA RELOAD Looking Ahead

The International Exhibition Logistics Association (IELA), 28 October, brought together organisers, venues and suppliers for the last in the current series of IELA RELOAD Talks 2.4, Looking Ahead. The session heard some powerful lobbying for a central body to regulate the global event sector safety protocols.

The event was a live session co-hosted by the International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services.

IELA vice-chair, Sandi Trotter, TWI Group Inc. (Canada) director welcomed speakers who gave a range of perspectives during the main session moderated by Jacqui Nel, IELA Board Member & Exhibition Freighting GSM South Africa director.

Mike Lord, SA Events Council Board Member & Alliance Safety MD gave the safety expert perspective, saying he’d seen more international discussion about event safety than during 20 years in the industry. He highlighted a current lack of harmony regarding requirements, regulations and legislation according to country, region and venues. An event safety ISO could, he said, regulate event safety sector protocols and which prevention and control measures to adopt.

“We all have the same issues and if we use the same way to deal with this, we can find solutions,” said Justin Hawes, IFES incoming president and Scan Display Solutions MD. “We have a great industry, we have a great medium in terms of face to face and I think we must not lose heart...we must keep communicating, keep collaborating and be committed to finding solutions,” he said.

From an organiser’s perspective, Dr Rowena Arzt, WZF GmbH director exhibitions and Melanie Ignasiak, Reed Exhibitions Deutschland GmbH project manager, were challenged to look ahead 10 years and envisage how a future sustainable tradeshow industry could be created with a customer centric approach. They confirmed that the difference is understanding customers’ needs: to meet, network, exchange, experience, do business and be educated, making face-to-face events more important than ever before.

All event professionals should have their own Code of Conduct of what they want to achieve in the future and where they want to make a difference, they said.

In answer to the question of ‘How can we transform and adapt?’, Arzt and Ignasiak highlighted six of the UN 17 sustainable development goals as a framework for a sustainable future, to be attractive to youngsters on the long term and to secure a legacy.

Ignasiak also shared the experience of Reed Deutschland’s first digital tradeshow, Global Bar Week, a combination of four events which could not happen this year. A new concept and platform was created within six months and recently gathered 232 international exhibitors and 6,800 participants.

Glyn Taylor, Cape Town Century City Conference Centre Joint CEO, explained how the venue had given back to the community to move forward and stay relevant by taking actions like feeding 24,000 people with a food fundraising. Century City Conference Centre had also diversified into creating a virtual conference centre with 43 virtual events to date (18 were hybrid) and offers a turnkey solution to create a new revenue stream.

The session heard that a survey of the South African Corporate sector had concluded that 80% of corporates intended to halve their face-to-face engagements for 2021, which Taylor said meant every sqm had to deliver a return. “We are looking at a 2-4 year recovery plan,” he added, “with 2022 the consolidation year, 2023 the recovery year and 2024 a year of prosperity.” He added that larger conference centres and hotels would need to re-engineer themselves in terms of accessibility.

Elizabeth Niehaus, IELA executive officer, addressed Looking Ahead from the supplier perspective and said that bringing the industry back to business meant helping the industry to become more resilient; helping all members to learn from this crisis and adapting fast to enable a rapid revenue recovery.

Collaboration within the venue chain was imperative, she said, to navigate better through the crisis. “We also have to be pragmatic, to identify what’s achievable on a practical note… We need to prepare our tomorrow now. Associations have a crucial role to play, in a consistent way, bringing the right tools, the right perspectives and the right network. A united front is what makes the difference in a crisis”.

The replay of the presentations is available here :  https://youtu.be/1crYn4ZKOWc