The UFI European Conference  theme this year is Future Proof Exhibitions. Keynote speaker Francis Friedman, President of trade show consultants Time & Place Strategies plans to have a strategic conversation with delegates on Future Building and Future Profiting of Exhibitions.

Friedman says, as we look to the future “Attendee acquisition will no longer be simply telling people they will get ‘excellent networking opportunities, see the latest products on the show floor, and get access to education’. It’s about adding value to your event that is so compelling 10,000 or 100,000 people show up.”

He continued, “Exhibition organizers will need to understand attendees on a deeper level. Our trade shows must have team members who are deeply integrated into the industries we cover. They have to know what potential and current visitors want and need, as well as understand attendees in peripheral and tangential markets. Organizers will have to evolve in the future to become great content developers and producers that fully engage their audiences.”

What does this mean? Trade fair organizers may no longer simply produce an annual event in a building with aisles, booths and conferences over two to four days. As business-to-business moves to a digital e-commerce model, organizers must further commit to being a 24/7/365 integral part of the industries we cover. This will involve producing content in any and all formats such as: white papers, conferences, events, and instructional videos.

Part of the future proofing and profiting of your show involves raising your Brand’s  “top of mind awareness” in your industry. Friedman asked, “What is the “persona” versus “personality” of your exhibition? A persona is a set of descriptors invented by your marketing department. The personality of your show is something else entirely, and involves a different kind of research. What are your exhibition’s true personality characteristics? How does it speak, act and deeply engage the community it serves?”

By comprehensively knowing your industry, creating the appropriate personality of your show and branding it accordingly, you’ll be well on your way to future proofing it and making it even more valuable, compelling and integral to the digital future of the industry you serve.

Late last year Friedman released his new book, “The Modern Digital TradeShow” on the digital future of our industry. Available as a free download at, it has been downloaded by thousands of industry professionals from around the world. He will deliver the keynote closing speech at the UFI European Conference on May 4 in Verona, Italy.