Exhibition World asked Howard Klein, moderator for the 85th UFI Global Congress in St Petersburg, to pick out his highlights of the event.
Having been to Russia many times, I was keen to see how the St Petersburg UFI Congress would go; and I was pleased to support it from the stage. These are my brief takeaways.
World competitiveness expert Stephane Garelli delivered a fast and furious roller coaster ride through the changing global business environment. It was backed-up with some poignant slides – with clarity of message that hit the spot like a Kalashnikov! UFI members can watch his session in the member section of the UFI website.
When talking about all the new business models, Stephane noted a continuing need for emotional connection. This, together with our need for more targeted marketing, became a recurring theme in many other sessions.
The panel with four industry leaders brought many strong views, particularly in respect of digital/data. The focus on the customer experience has many ‘digital’ initiatives, including deeper analytics, with a likely increasing use of AI and Blockchain solutions. However, the speed of adoption in our industry is not good; and let’s stop treating ‘digital’ as a distinct subject – it is integral!
The panel also talked about changing event formats and the needs of a younger trade show audience (do we track age profiles?). However, the concept of ‘Festivalisation’ seems limited, and should to be amended to reflect a broader range of customer experience. A final strong statement in this session was that the M&A environment cannot sustain high multiples, with a potential risk to event quality.
This year’s Next Generation Leadership intake’s wide-ranging presentation included some powerful messages: the increasing importance of Personality Based Marketing (tied to overall customer experiences); and the need for more structured approaches to Talent (given c99% of us fall into this industry, i.e. unplanned). This group are a good advertisement to attract 2019 NGL candidates.
Of the many breakout sessions, I would highlight two.
- Firstly, the presentation of global visitor experiences and expectations was a first view of UFI’s and Explori’s survey of 13,000 participants. The age (rather than seniority) variations were significant and we look forward to seeing the further analysis.
- Secondly, the Women in the Exhibitions Industry research was interesting, leading to a key point of getting more women into leadership roles (NB: UFI’s next President will be Mary Larkin).
Finally, Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanski was an inspirational keynote – the spirit of Gagarin’s Поехали! (Let’s Go!). A scientist first, then a cosmonaut, Sergey overcame the challenges, some career threatening, to work on the International Space Station, a holistic management approach to space exploration.
Overall, with 450+ delegates from 54 countries, there were high levels of networking at this year’s UFI Congress. Certainly, many delegates enjoyed the location.
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