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Digital 2021 UFI European Conference Put Focus on the Global Future of Expos

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor

2021 UFI European Conference PARIS — More than 221 trade show executives from 32 countries tuned in to the digital 2021 UFI European Conference on June 9-10. The leading European exhibition industry event, led by UFI Regional Director for Europe Nick Dugdale-Moore with the support of tech partner Grip, included informational session, networking, matchmaking and business development opportunities for its online attendees.

Because so many events went digital-only during the COVID-19 pandemic — and many believe events moving forward likely will contain a digital component — the conference provided insights on how to adapt to the digital event space. As Olivier Ferraton, CEO of GL events, said of his experience organizing sporting events, “Hybrid solutions are a part of life; they are nothing to be scared about.”

Maison & Object’s Philippe Brocart, who has six years of experience running a digital marketplace along with an in-person show, said, “We are not selling square meters; we are offering business opportunities on the platform.”

Related. UFI Elects Informa’s Michael Duck as its Next President

While the emphasis was on digital events, the conference also had several sessions on the re-emergence of face-to-face shows as the pandemic begins to wane, at least in some parts of the world. Explori Managing Director Sophie Holt shared results from the third edition of the Global Recovery Insights report her firm conducted in partnership with UFI and with support from the Society for Independent Show Organizers (SISO). Among the report’s findings were that 70% of those who have attended digital versions of trade shows now want to go to in-person events, indicating there likely will be a lot of pent-up demand once trade shows come back on-site.

When exactly that will happen in Europe varies from country to country. Some are fully open for trade shows, while others are still awaiting a green light for larger business group gatherings. There was general agreement among conference-goers that exhibitions are the fastest way to boost post-pandemic economic recoveries, though governments still need to be educated more on that fact. As Rita Marques, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, said, “exhibitions and business events have a huge role to play in our economic recovery.”

Related. European Organizers Face Ongoing Identity Struggle

UFI’s Dugdale-Moore says: “Of course, we would have preferred to meet in person, but this year’s digital conference offered positive outcomes in terms of lessons learned and a view to what’s coming next. On behalf of the UFI team, I want to thank the speakers and panelists for delivering such compelling and valuable content. UFI members can catch up on all the sessions in the member section of the website once the event platform closes. I am already looking forward to the next European Conference which will take place in Poznan, Poland, in May 2022, hosted by our friends at Grupa MTP.”

Related. Part Two of UFI-Explori Global Recovery Report Reveals Strong Demand for Live Events

For those who are craving an in-person experience before 2022, UFI will be hosting its Global Congress 2021 live in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on November 3-6. Registration for the event is now open. For more information or to register, go to

Reach Nick Dugdale-Moore at +33 1 4639 7500 or


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