The UFI European Conference 2018 review, future-proofing the exhibition world

Sophie Hackford, the keynote speaker

Over 220 delegates from 35 countries gathered at the European Conference 2018 in Verona (Italy). Speakers and delegates discussed the challenge of how to future-proof exhibitions on the main conference stage and in breakout sessions over the course of two days.

As one participant put it on Twitter: “To future-proof exhibitions, first listen to the future.” This was the theme behind the opening session with keynote speaker Sophie Hackford, Futurist and Researcher, which offered a thorough overview on Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and other emerging mainstream technologies. She captured her audience with various examples demonstrating the extent to which new technologies will impact our everyday lives in the very near future. During her deep-dive session, followed by her presentation, she challenged participants to imagine how tomorrow’s technology will affect industry products and services in the future.

Terri Toennies, Executive Vice President & General Manager, LA Auto Show; Richard West, Director of Security, Ascential; and Chris Skeith, Chief Executive Officer, AEO; conducted a session on safety followed by a discussion on contingency planning. Drawing on their own experiences, they explained that to create a successful event, safety must be considered as one of the most vital points on any organiser’s business plan. They shared practical tips and guidance for organisers as well as strategic advice on how best to plan around security.

The UFI Digital Innovation Committee, featuring Tesi Baur, Consulting Partner, MBB Media; Stephan Forseilles, Chief Technology Officer, Artexis Easyfairs; and Gunnar Heinrich, CEO & Managing Partner, Adventics; opened their interactive session on Digital Disruption by stating that humanity will change more in the next twenty years than in the past 300. Their presentation focused on customer experience in today’s exhibition industry versus the future. By engaging with the audience, they created a real-time group discussion on matters such as registration, digital customer centricity, and other hot topics for both organisers and venues.

Eddie Choi

Eddie Choi, Founding Partner of Frontiers Digital and Executive Director of Milton Exhibits Group, gave a presentation on how to future-proof your company and your company culture. He explained that modern marketing is heading towards a combination of technology and communication. He offered some interesting roadmaps with captivating ideas based on his research, work experience and data collection.

The closing session ‘Is your event ready for the future?’ led by Francis Friedman, President of Time & Place Strategies, looked ahead to how best to future-proof events. He presented ideas about what trade show and congress owners can do to prepare and remain relevant, competitive and financially successful in their transition to the digital future.

“A key takeaway following these sessions is that new technologies, especially around Artificial intelligence, will allow exhibition organisers to address their audience much more precisely. But also, at the same time, we’ve seen a very open discussion about those areas of our business where we are clearly lagging behind what customers experience elsewhere, and what we need to do about that,” sums up Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director/CEO.

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