Blogger: Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director
Exhibitions are changing, and the ConFex model – a blend of exhibition and congress – is on the rise.
Some months ago, at our UFI Congress in Milan, this was one of the core findings of a survey among UFI’s members, carried out by jwc. Also, the latest UFI Global Barometer shows digitalisation has now become one of the most important issues for organisers and venues globally. Digitalisation is changing organisers’ space requirements. Demand for multi-functional spaces is growing, as are the opportunities to use digital technologies for everything from heating and light to digital signage.
I am just back from Singapore, where we held a UFI Focus Meeting on the Digitalisation of Venues. Participants travelled to the Lion City from 17 countries to look at one of the most
interesting cases of digital venue development that our industry currently has to offer: The refurbished and digitally enhanced Suntec Conference and Exhibition Center.
The most visible symbol of this is a giant screen covering the whole outside wall of the main entrance – 664 High Definition screens forming one huge digital canvass. They call it “The Big Picture“. It has put the venue into the Guiness Book of Records, and – more importantly – it has already earned back its investment costs through advertising revenues.
Inside the venue, most of the building’s operational functions can be remotely controlled by the staff using apps on normal tablet computers, giving them the opportunity to react instantly to organiser requests. Digital signage automatically pulls the data it needs from the internal systems, and LED light installations in some halls allow for a broad variety of
specific light moods – all the way up to “indoor fireworks“. And, in line with Singapore’s ambitions to evolve into an allconnected “smart nation“, wifi is free for everyone inside the venue.
But the changes the venue has implemented go beyond technology. Over a nine-month period – during which the venue was closed – the whole layout was changed. Spaces that had been used as exhibition halls before were redesigned and re-equipped to become scalable and flexible in size as well as functionality. This echoes another core message recently discussed at our UFI Asia Seminar in Chiang Mai: Show formats are more diverse, and exhibition and conference venues that are currently under construction or in planning have to respond to this by offering a greater diversity of functionalities as well as improved ease of operation.
In the discussion about how the exhibition industry is adapting to the changes digital brings, we have been focusing a lot on the organiser side. The success of the Singapore meeting shows us that the venue side of that discussion is just as important.
If you want to see this for yourself – mark your calendars. In February 2017, UFI will head to Singapore again, and to Suntec itself, for the Open Asia Seminar.