FRANKFURT — Some challenges will need to be addressed in 2023, but you will need help finding a more resilient industry than trade shows. No doubt, there have been many trend reports that have flooded your inbox of late.
“Trends are, for me, one of the best reasons to attend trade shows. They focus on gathering intelligence about whatever industry you are in, as to its movements, today and in the future,” Michael Duck, President of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and EVP Commercial Development, Informa Markets said. “If you are in the fashion business, you look at hemlines, colors, textures, materials. If you are in the jewelry business, you look at size, color, clarity, rarity, and price. If you are in the commodity food business, you find out about stocks, demand, weather patterns and pricing. I could go on ad infinitum. A great tagline for our industry is, ‘You always feel the pulse of an industry at a trade fair.’”
Predicting trends this year isn’t as straightforward as in the past as many countries are still in rescue mode, said Duck. Many have not even restarted, namely Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau SAR.
Global inflation must be contended with, said Duck. Energy costs, airline fares, accommodations are all up. And there is the talent issue. “Talent has not gone — it has just been misplaced,” Duck said.
The trade show industry itself is one of the best ways to navigate these issues. “The best way to market is face-to-face. We have to rebuild our businesses by doing what we do best — attract buyers to come to a venue and give them the best experience possible in meeting the best exhibitors possible,” Duck said. “The future trend in our business is onwards and upwards. Let us hope we never have to go through what we have these last few years. But we are better prepared as an industry.”
A round up of UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf’s Top 5 Trends to watch in 2023:
Keep Your Eye on the Customer
According to Kai Hattendorf, CEO at UFI, in chatting with members and industry leaders, it is imperative not to lose sight of what is most important — building and operating marketplaces.
“In the coming year, we will relearn what we applied in the recession 15 years ago — focus on the customers, make sure they have a successful show, and make the right connections,” Hattendorf said.
Climate Crisis Will Make an Impact
“Extreme weather conditions will lead to show cancellations or postponement more regularly,” said Hattendorf. “We will also need to tangibly demonstrate our own race-to-zero plans for our events. We have to compare the carbon impact of participating in our events to the carbon footprint required to generate the same amount of business without two or three days at a trade show. We can do this. We have the tools. Part of our Net Zero Carbon Events initiative is to develop the carbon aggregate measurements for events.”
More Data, Less Hype
The data-driven design of trade shows will continue in 2023 and beyond. “What some still call hybrid events is really just the smart adoption of technology and data to make the face-to-face marketplaces we run more successful for the buyers and sellers on and off the show floor. In 2023, the hype around hybrid or metaverses that has been fueled by marketing spent from start-ups or Silicon Valley-based conglomerates will lose steam. People will use what actually works for them. It will be less glamorous but be more efficient,” Hattendorf said.
Workforce Development Key
“We need new skills, talent, and perspectives,” said Hattendorf. “We now understand that we need to better sell our industry to the people who we want to work with us. Our next-generation leaders say that we are the industry that builds and serves communities. We give purpose, and as a result, we are one of the most attractive industries in the world. Let’s take this new staffing narrative and roll it out globally. Let’s be at the forefront of people’s minds as they are entering the workforce. Let’s work to bring in the most diversely talented and educated people that make and keep our industry a true melting pot of different talents.”
If the pandemic taught us anything, it was adaptability and resilience. “We have had a bit of a return to normal, where our customers are back at our shows, and they are generally happy. But we cannot just play our greatest hits. We need to push the envelope,” said Hattendorf. “We need to do more, and we can do more. We now have teams who are seasoned at fast adaptation. They are making more data-based decisions and are open to learning from each other. Expect this to lead to new ideas, formats, launches, mergers, acquisitions, and other developments that will drive the eternal engine of our industry.”