Three Ways the UFI Congress Will Shape My Business in 2016

By Jason Popp

In November, I had the chance to attend the 82nd annual UFI Congress in Milan—where more than 480 participants from 53 different countries gathered to share ideas, discuss best practices, and explore where the exhibition industry is headed.

Attending this event has always expanded my mind, and this year was no exception. I got to catch up informally with clients, business partners, and suppliers—all friends of mine.

I was able to hear incredible speakers and gain a broader view of the industry. I left with a better understanding of the live events market and a renewed sense of excitement for the future.

What was most reassuring about the experience, though, is that many of the challenges I’m addressing every day are the same challenges the industry faces as a whole.

I heard panel discussions on specific topics like “winning the war for talent” and “innovating for the future.” The things we all struggle with.

However, there were three main issues that permeated the entire event, and they are insights I plan to shape my business strategies around this year.

The World is Becoming More and More Intertwined

The movement toward globalization has been gaining momentum for years, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Perhaps the best argument for this trend was given by Jochen Witt, who took attendees on a “global tour” that highlighted opportunities in attractive emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Africa.

I should note the Congress occurred just before the terrible tragedies in Paris, so it didn’t specifically address how the threat of global terrorism will affect the live event industry.

However, we’ve shown resilience in the wake of terrorism before, so I don’t expect the industry to change direction now.

HR Strategies Need to Include Renewing Talent Pools

One of my favorite things about working in this industry is that I’m always surrounded by passionate individuals. We love what we do, and that’s fantastic!

But the downside to this enthusiasm is that senior staffs tend to stick around for a long time, which leaves few opportunities for fresh blood to climb the rungs of leadership.

When you don’t have a natural progression of replacing people, you have to be more direct about getting newer, younger people on your team.

Companies that fail to do this will lack understanding about new generations of employees and customers.

Data is More Important than Ever

Throughout the event, there was widespread recognition of the fact that we create a trail of data exhaust from our events. However, we don’t fully understand how to capture value from that data and leverage it to improve future events.

The proliferation of systems, apps, websites, and CRMs is creating a risk of ending up with a spaghetti bowl of useless information.

Companies that are able to make sense of these massive amounts of data will find huge buckets of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The UFI Congress Affects Marketing Approach

Without a doubt, the UFI Congress will affect my approach to marketing through live events. Attending was an easy choice for me, but we all have the challenge of dealing with the sheer quantity of events available.

If you attended every industry or association event you knew about, you’d never make it to the office to earn your paycheck.

Choosing two or three events to attend each year that are the most relevant to you personally can give you a much-needed boost in knowledge and motivation. It’s amazing what a few days away can do for your business.

Which events do you attend to inform your business strategies?

Jason Popp

Jason Popp is the executive vice president of international at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events. With more than 20 years of global leadership experience, he is able to seamlessly combine operational and direct P&L management with rigorous strategic thinking. Follow him on Twitter.

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