Dear colleagues, dear friends!

I just met many of you a few days ago at our Global Congress in Las Vegas, and I hope you all had a wonderful week connecting with old friends and meeting new ones there.

On stage towards the end of the Congress, I took up the mantle as the President of our association from Michael Duck. My thanks to Michael his great year as UFI President and his enormous commitment to UFI serving in many different roles for more than 20 years. His dedication to UFI is truly remarkable and appreciated.

Michael Duck, Monica Lee-Müller, Anbu Varathan, Mary Larkin – they all served UFI extremely well, and I begin my presidential year in awe of their and their predecessors’ achievements. They left big shoes to fill. I promise all of you: I will do my best!

As a boy I grew up poor, but supported by strong women: a single mother and two sisters. I worked weekends in shops from a young age at school and at supermarkets to go to university and gain a Law Degree. I was driven at a young age to hope for a better world, and what I wanted was to find a job that would offer me a sense of purpose. I ended up in events – by pure chance – and some 40 years later I reflect how lucky I was to join this industry – the most resilient one in existence.

Through good times and bad, and through disruption from plagues to huge technological break throughs – events have never dwindled. They have advanced and grown, embedding new technologies and inventions.

However, we should never be complacent – our events have to evolve and develop to retain relevance and positive power. They serve the industries they are designed for – and it is our duty to provide excellent content to help those industries deal with the challenges and opportunities ahead.

We as an industry have to mirror that and so we must understand the major changes we need to make to endure and to be better.

Our events have to become more sustainable – both for the good of the planet and to retain the support of our customers.

At UFI we will be committed to seeking to get to Net Zero – but we cannot do this alone – we need to engage with our suppliers and discuss ways we can achieve this together. During my Presidency I want us to reach out to our supply chains such as airlines, hotels, venues, stand contractors to seek solutions to help us to honour our net zero pledge.

Through UFI we need to exchange shared learnings on using the latest technologies such as AI for the good of our events and our customers. We need to continue to embrace diversity and inclusivity – and be an industry with opportunity for everyone.

If we do these things together, then we can solve the issues many of us face in attracting new talent. People want to think that every generation is different, but young minds have always been attracted to jobs where they have a sense of purpose – just as I was some 40 years ago.

We need to position ourselves as an industry always striving to be better and an industry that creates platforms for our customers to positively develop and grow their opportunities for a better future.

Together we can use our events to continue to be a catalyst for change for a better, a sustainable, an inclusive world – this is our purpose as it has been for thousands of years and I am sure for thousands of years to come. Human beings need to get together to collaborate and evolve – they need in person events.