Paris – The growing international nature of the exhibition industry makes it likely that UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, will eventually establish an official presence in the U.S. with the formation of a chapter.
Cliff Wallace, president of UFI, said the number of American organizers looking to expand their operations overseas was on the rise and they would likely be looking to the Paris-based organization as a source of industry data and contacts. Wallace is UFI’s first U.S. president in its 107-year existence.
“There is probably not enough demand today to justify a U.S. chapter,” Wallace told Trade Show Executive. “But the interest in the potential of globalization from organizers in the Americas is increasing, albeit slowly.”
Wallace emphasized that the concept of an American chapter was part of a ‘think-tank’ exercise, not a meeting to discuss implementation now. Other ideas that arose included establishing sub-chapters to address unique challenges in the BRIC countries, Central Europe, Africa, etc.
UFI has more than 530 member companies, including 283 show organizers in 85 nations. U.S. members include Reed Exhibitions, E.J. Krause & Associates; Diversified Communications; Creative Expos and Conferences; the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO); the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE); and others.
“The membership in the Americas is increasing. I believe the demand and level of potential membership will increase within the next several years,” Wallace said. “This may justify stronger alliances and affiliations and/or a formal chapter in the Americas, probably located in North America.”
Wallace said that UFI’s membership of CEOs and other top-level executives was more closely matched to SISO, but he insisted that UFI would not be looking to poach members from either SISO or IAEE if the association does establish a U.S. chapter. “There is no one venue or exhibition association that is able to promote the industry and provide all of the networking, research and educational opportunities necessary to merit an exclusive,” he said.
IAEE: Not Everyone is Global
In an interview during TSE’s Gold 100 Summit, IAEE Chairman Randy Bauler and Chair-Elect Margaret Pederson told TSE that the IAEE is open to working with UFI and already has ties to UFI and other industry associations. “We have reciprocity agreements with 15 to 20 international exhibition organizations in other countries,” Bauler said. “And the two organizations (IAEE and UFI) have agreed to share information and work together whenever possible.”
In addition, Bauler said IAEE’s CEM Learning Program (Certified in Exhibition Management) has drawn heavy participation from exhibition professionals in Asia and Mexico.
“UFI is a great organization,” Bauler said. “We work with them as often as possible and would like to work with them more. We need to meet with them and see where we have additional common interests.”
The strong membership base, headquarters location and board makeup of each organization currently places IAEE as the champion of the U.S. industry while UFI is more closely associated with Europe and Asia. Those geographical differences mean that the interests of the respective memberships are not entirely mutual.
“A regional show organizer is not likely to be focusing on international issues,” Pederson said. “IAEE works to meet the needs of different types of organizers, not just the big international ones.”
Bauler added, “The two organizations can work out the common challenges as well as find the resources and a common voice. We also have to ask, ‘Is the power of two or three organizations working together more effective than one group working independently?’”
Covering All Bases
Wallace noted that there would likely be advantages for major organizers to belong to multiple industry associations. “The business is still very culturally, politically and otherwise different in the various nations and regions around the world,” he said. “I hope our industry associations throughout the world will work closely in meaningful alliances with one another.”
Wallace is the managing director of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and Chairman of Hong Kong – Shanghai Venue Management (Zhengzhou) Ltd. managing the Zhengzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Henan Province, China. His term as UFI president ends on November 1 after the UFI Annual Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. However, he will continue to have strong influence as UFI’s executive vice president and membership chairman.