In a blog post in December, UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf outlined five themes that will shape the next 12 to 18 months. In a 2 part blog post, we will share strategies that UFI members are deploying around these themes in 2023.

For this first part, we asked industry leaders to share their experience on how these trends are impacting their businesses as the new year begins. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Doubling down on customer focus

It’s hard to believe that last year at this time most of us were simply grateful that CES went off without a hitch despite Omicron. One year later: As the race to ramp up to pre-pandemic levels continues, it’s not easy to deal with the constant pressures of event production while also staying focused on building and operating the best marketplaces for our customers. Organizers like The Toy Association are doubling down on customer focus, even if that means deviating from the status quo.

New year, new realities: “When it comes to customer focus, there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach, but Toy Fair has long provided an entire ecosystem of toy, play and entertainment audiences with an epicenter of creativity, deal making, media exposure and a real-life experience of joy and strong business relationships,” said Kimberly Carcone, Executive Vice President, Global Market Events, The Toy Association. “The move of Toy Fair from the historic Q1 time period to the Fall, beginning in 2023, recognizes that the rhythm of the industry has changed, and Toy Fair is evolving with those changes. Consumers and media know that toys are top of mind in the Fall, so this new September timeframe provides even more meaningful opportunity to toy companies for exposure to the global media while also offering makers and sellers of toys the chance to put finishing touches on their Spring lines and privately preview the next holiday’s playthings. Toy Fair in the Fall creates a ‘Triple Crown’ of opportunity that did not exist in February. Our focus is always on customers – ALL our customers, and as always, we endeavor to provide the most engaging and necessary gathering. That means always being open and ready to listen to changing needs and then make a shift. And now, with 93% of our available space already sold (as of Jan. 8), and September just around the corner, it’s looking like our decision for change is meeting the needs of many.”

2. The Climate Crisis will hit

How is the climate crisis impacting show organizers? Companies like RX are taking a proactive approach to proving that business events are part of the solution. RX, a public company that produces 400 events covering 43 sectors in 22 countries, is a founding partner of UFI’s pledge that commits the event industry to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. For more info on the Net Zero Carbon initiative, you can support and sign the pledge here.

Need to know: “Addressing the climate emergency is a core pillar of our business strategy,” said Helen Sheppard, Sustainability Director, RX. “We have events dedicated to decarbonisation with many others supporting low carbon innovations for their industry. This is only going to become an increasing focus for our customers. Our events are making efforts to reduce waste and use more sustainable materials, working with venues using green energy. In 2023, we will be looking at more ways to scale this.” Read more about RX’s sustainability initiatives in a Q&A with Sheppard.

3. More data, less hype

How are data insights and intelligence driving the development of shows and portfolios in 2023? Organizers like the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) are embracing digital and data to make the face-to-face marketplaces more successful for their buyers and sellers on and off the show floor.

Why it matters: “We can all agree that nothing replaces the excitement, relationship-building and serendipity of in person events,” said Laurie Lutz, VP, CES Operations at CTA. “Our goal with the CES 2023 digital experience is to enhance that experience by providing access to more than 50 conference sessions, keynotes, exhibitor activations and a 1:1 connection among CES attendees, media and exhibitors. CES is a must-see week of events and innovation, and the digital venue allows people to view on-demand content they may have missed and continue to make connections through the end of February. Our CES anchor desk offers a cool broadcast experience, bringing the latest CES news from brand executives, product announcements and live-from-the-show-floor coverage. Nothing beats in person, but for those not able join us in Las Vegas, the digital venue extends the reach to those around the world to experience all that CES has to offer.”

4. Staffing stays key

While staffing and hiring continues to be at the forefront in 2023, organizers like Informa are looking for new skills, new talent and new perspectives. How are they attracting the next generation of leaders to our vibrant industry?

Zoom out: “The exhibitions industry is a truly dynamic one, and that’s more true today than ever before,” said Thomas Humphris, HR Director, Informa Markets. “Hiring, developing and retaining diverse and top talent is critical to keeping up with the rapidly evolving needs of our customers and the communities we serve. At Informa Markets, we are focused on nurturing a culture that values and prioritizes the colleague experience, and in 2023 will be focused on telling the colleague story externally so that prospective colleagues from a variety of industries and functions can see firsthand the opportunity that joining our passionate community of innovative, collaborative specialists has to offer.  We are committed to investing in our talent and have a highly comprehensive learning and performance offering, including opportunities for colleagues who what to expand their existing capabilities, or be provided leadership opportunities.  There are few other industries that have so much to offer for so many diverse perspectives, interests and expertise, and as we continue to rapidly grow, there is no better time to join our colleague community.”

5. Accelerating change

As we return to the new normal in the post-Covid era, organizers are adapting to customer needs by making more data-driven decisions to push the envelope. Companies like Emerald are testing new ideas, new formats, new launches, M&As and other developments that will drive the eternal engine of our industry. Emerald’s diverse portfolio of brands and services includes more than 150 events, media, content, market intelligence, lead generation and digital transactional solutions.

Why now? “Becoming a data business is critical to growth,” said Hervé Sedky, President & CEO, Emerald. “To drive ultimate value for our customers, it is not enough for us to let our customers find their way through the Emerald journey haphazardly on their own. Instead, our mission is to guide them throughout their journey – to recommend the right content, the most relevant face-to-face meetings, the most-valuable connections, and product offerings, all at the right time.  To achieve this mission of providing a guided journey depends on our focus on data collection at every point across Emerald’s Content, Connections, and Commerce Groups and continued investment in our technology stack that manages and orchestrates this data.”

How is your organization addressing these trends? Please share your experience.