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TSE’s 11 Key Takeaways from UFI’s 2019 European Conference


BIRMINGHAM, UK — Trade Show Executive was on the ground at the UFI European Conference to find what’s trending at exhibitions across the pond. We attended sessions and talked to venues, tech experts and organizers about how exhibition business models are evolving. Here are some of our favorite session quotes and 11 key takeaways:

  1. Help IT understand the customer journey. “Have your IT people work the service desk at your show so they will better understand customer needs and their journey,” Peter Tubak, IT Architect, Messe Munchen, said at the session titled Different Ways of Creating and Pushing Innovation.
  2. Sensing technology debuts at events. “We think it (sensing technology and facial recognition) is inevitable, but we want the industry to lead the way,” Jag Minhas, CEO & Founder, SensingFeeling, said at the session titled Sensing Feeling: Real-Time Human Emotion Sensing for Business. The keys: Educate customers, be transparent and don’t call it a camera, he said. “It’s a sensor because it is not recording like a camera.” The company produced live event feedback about customer sentiment during a plenary session and four breakouts at an event in Manchester, UK, in March.
  3. AI tech voted most innovative. “Voice or natural communication is the next user interface,” said Wilson Tang, Digital Creative Innovation Executive, Freeman, which was voted by UFI attendees as the Digital Innovation Tech Award Winner for its AI-powered multi-channel chatbot communications platform. “Why is AI so hard for events? Events have a language or jargon of their own, and individual events create a limited amount of data.” The No. 1 question at events: “Where’s the bathroom?” Tang predicts the next hot trend will be audio SEO.
  4. Trip Advisor effect for trade shows? “B2B events attract 300 million attendees each year, but can big data help us get to 1 billion? I think it can,” Atul Todi, CEO, 10times, said at the session titled Using Big Data to Discover New Audiences and Grow Reach. “Our platform uses big data to create an affinity score to similar users to drive recommendations.” When asked why the industry needs a platform? “Platforms build trust,” he said. “It’s the Trip Advisor Effect.”
  5. Lift-and-shift approach doesn’t always work. “I have found that a lift-and-shift approach from one show to the next doesn’t always works,” Ade Allenby, Global Head of Digital and Data Innovation, Reed said at the session titled Digitalization Journeys.  He said Reed tested a chatbot for registration at a Brazilian show and a chatbot for matchmaking at a Japanese show. He is also testing calendar reminders for marketing instead of mass email reminders.
  6. Go short or go long with registration. “We only use long registration forms, but we are ok with losing 2% to 3% of registrants to get higher quality data,” Baris Onay, Group Marketing and Digital Director, ITE Group said at the session titled Digitalization Journeys.
  7. Brexit = Uncertainty. “Uncertainty is the result of the government not able to deliver policy,” Nick de Bois, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Special Advisor and Former Chief of Staff, said at the keynote, A Different Europe — A Different Britain? Brexit and Other Disruptors. Robert Peston, Political Editor, ITV, agreed. “The real cancer is the uncertainty,” Peston said.
  8. One size does not fit all for U.S. organizers. At the session titled Glocalisation; U.S. Players Reach Out, Gabrielle Weiss, Publisher and Editor, Trade Show Executive, asked: “What’s your strategy for launching events outside the U.S.? “We tend not to do an event unless we have at least 50% ownership,” said Dianna Steinbach, VP International Services, ISSA. “We would prefer to buy instead of build,” said Cassandra Farrington, CEO and Co-Founder, Marijuana Business Daily.
  9. Be on the ground often.  “We have dealt with security concerns, visa issues and postal strikes at our events outside of the U.S.,” Mary Larkin, Executive VP, Diversified Communications said at the same session. “It’s part of the business we are in. We work closely with our venues, but we are on the ground a lot — at least three visits each year no matter how old the show is.”
  10. Use tech to build trust with customers. “One major exhibitor told us they don’t trust show organizers,” Adam Parry, Co-Founder and Editor of Event Tech Live said at the session titled Digital Innovation — Meet the Experts. “Tech can be used to dispel these myths.” Katie Crocombe, Director, 52eight3 Limited, agreed. “Transparency is key because we are competing with Google,” she said.
  11. Revenue streams predicted to shift. “Today, organizers generate 80% of revenues from exhibit space and 20% from other sources,” Denzil Rankine, Executive Chairman, AMR International, said at the session titled What to do Now? Industry Needs. “In five years, I think it will be more like 60% from space and 40% from other revenue streams. The industry hasn’t been ready to change because it’s growing and has healthy margins.

Reach Kai Hattendorf at (33) 1 46 39 75 00 or

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