The Exhibition Industry in Transformation. 83rd UFI's Global Congress in Shanghai

UFI’s Global Congress, the most international gathering of leaders from the exhibition industry, set to support and inspire events professionals from all over the world, was held on 9-12 November in Shanghai. CEOs, young leaders, and international experts from the exhibition industry presented their opinions on how businesses can thrive in today’s fast-changing exhibition industry environment.

Riding the waves of change

The Congress, entitled “Ripples – The Exhibition Industry in Transformation”, came at a time of uncertainty for many people in the exhibition industry, faced with factors such as digitalisation, political insecurity, and shifting global economic power. Keynote speaker Ayesha Khanna, Smart Cities and Education Strategy Expert, and Founder of the Hybrid Reality Institute, called on delegates to “ride the waves of change”. “Why is the exhibition industry successful?”, she asked. “Because it delivers on a promise: the promise of a successful marketplace. Buyers trust us to find the right sellers, sellers trust us to bring in the right buyers.”

The five young winners of the 2016 UFI Next Generation Leaders Grant - from Germany, India Iran, Qatar and the US - also took the stage and shared their visions of the future of the exhibition industry.

Ever more flexible programme

This year’s flexible event format allowed each delegate to choose to follow either the “Strategy Track”, with expert analysis of digitalisation and visitor expectations, or focus on the “Operations Track”, looking at exhibitor engagement, and questions of health, safety and security.

Within the framework of the “Special Interest Group” sessions, Congress delegates could themselves dive deep into topics that drive their business – be it venue development and management, HR, or digital disruption.

As an example of these, a top level venue panel, featuring Corrado Peraboni (CEO Fiera Milano), René Kamm (CEO MCH Group), Cliff Wallace (Chairman, New World (Shenyang) Property Development Limited Expo Branch Company) and Deutsche Messe AG’s Andreas Gruchow, debated Models for large venue management for the future.

In parallel, focussing on staff retention, top HR managers: Richard Lowther (Reed Exhibitions) and Joost van de Kamp (Jaarbeurs) discussed findings and insights from a recent UFI survey on the topic.

2016 also is the year where the big players of our industry are going digital and collaborating with leaders of the digital economy. In Shanghai, the spotlight was on the most prominent collaboration in our industry: the one between UBM and Alibaba, as Jimé Essink (President & CEO, UBM Asia Ltd), for the first time, gave insights into the collaboration, one year after it had been announced.

Adding to these sessions, the UFI Congress welcomed back jwc President & CEO Jochen Witt for his annual “state of the industry” talk. Closing two intense days of sessions, Tim Cobbold (CEO, UBM), Michael Kruppe (GM, SNIEC), and Jason Popp (EVP Intl, GES) discussed how organisers, venues, and service providers find their balance in collaborating while competing against the backdrop of technological and legal changes in our industry.

UFI world meetings

In addition to the main programme, the Congress hosted various UFI meetings. These included the UFI Board of Directors Meeting, the UFI annual General Assembly, the UFI CEO Think Tank, and meetings of UFI Regional Chapters, the UFI Associations’ Committee and the UFI Marketing Committee. The end of the Congress saw the handover of the UFI Presidency from Sergey Alexeev to Andreas Gruchow.

Source: UFI -the Global association of the Exhibition Industry,