Polishing the exhibition lens to see clear opportunities

Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director/CEO, writes:

For everyone visiting us at the UFI HQ in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is on their top three list of things to see. As many of you will know, it was originally designed and built for the Paris World Fair that took place in the year 1900 – and it became such a success that the original plans to dismantle it again were shelved, and the tower became the globally known icon it is today.

A few weeks back, a UFI run took the participants of our Asia-Pacific Conference past another Eiffel Tower – this one in Macau and the centrepiece of the Paris resort there where our conference took place. Last November, as we took the UFI Congress community from our base at the ARIA to Drai’s in Las Vegas – we passed the Vegas Eiffel Tower.

It is just a coincidence in many ways that we had UFI events almost “back-to-back” around Eiffel Tower replicas around the world, but it got me thinking about the power of symbols and how they can carry brands and ideas into new geographies.

In its very own way, our industry itself is such an iconic brand – trade shows are marketplaces. As such, we are a symbol for exchange, a metaphor for openness, a catalyst for growth and innovation, and a driver for city developments. Brand experts can easily expand on this.

When I advocate for our industry, this is one of the messages that resonate with politicians and policymakers – giving them the lens through which to see the multi-dimensional benefits of our trade shows and exhibitions.

This advocacy is a win-win. We help them understand how our business benefits them, and they can support us in being more successful in running shows and events. Not every segment of the events industry can show this kind of direct impact as we can through trade. It is also about destinations positioning themselves as homes for industries or as centres of education.

No wonder, then, that the economic impact is such a powerful tool in our industry’s advocacy toolkit. It is one we are able to support national industry associations with as we developed an economic impact model with Oxford Economics some years back that we can apply to every region and market. The latest to take advantage of this were the Greek colleagues from SOKEE, who recently presented the exhibition industry’s impact on the national economy using this model.

As we are gearing up for this year’s Global Exhibitions Day on 5 June, we will work to share this story among others around the world. In Macau, our photo wall with the GED logos was very popular again, as many participants took advantage of taking their pictures early for this year’s campaign. Let me invite you today to prepare your own activities for the day – we have toolkits and ideas waiting for you at globalexhibitionsday.org.