The wait is now over: the 36th IELA Congress took place online from June 29th to July 1st 2021 and explored the perspective of A BEGINNER’S MIND. The online platform for re-connecting, accessing the on-demand area to all sessions & additional content material plus networking opportunities was extended by 30 days to the new deadline of July 31st.

The congress format was constructed to encourage free movement between flows throughout the day, in order to address the online challenge which was intensified during the period of pandemic: THINK, BREAKFAST BRAINS, STREAM and now WORK LAB and THE EXTRA-MILE areas. This year’s concept took a step further with JOY-EMPOWER and THRIVE to energize delegates during the breaks, using interlude design to help members to remain connected, focussed and fresh although in front of a screen several hours per day.

The 36th IELA Congress is part of the IELA BACK TO BUSINESS programme. It was organised free of charge for all IELA Members and registered 348 delegates from 48 countries over the three days. This event is a mix of socializing, sharing knowledge, networking and strengthening business relationships among members. It is divided into 4 parts: Networking platform also prior to June 29th, the on-demand area pre-congress, the 3 day live Congress and the 30 day post event period until July 31st to continue networking and select sessions in the on-demand area.

As to the focus of the event, Elizabeth Niehaus, IELA Executive Officer explains “’Why A BEGINNERS MIND? We need to shift our “old” perspective and open our minds, allowing ourselves to identify new territories with curiosity and open hearts. In this spirit, the online format gives our members areas and topics to explore to gain insights, obtain foresight and learn how to adjust course and reshape our future”.

IELA Chairperson Guido confirms: “A Beginner’s Mind is the only state of mind we need in order to face the NEW NOW. This means that we have to adapt and be more efficient. This Congress will look at new and disruptive actions to help us to reshape our future with the professional ethos of continuous improvement and life-long learning. In this spirit, this Congress will accompany all IELA members in building new outlooks, new paths to re-invent ourselves, thus harnessing new business opportunities”.

Sandi Trotter, IELA Vice Chair & 36th Congress MC adds: “The last 18 months have been a time of learning and a time to focus on the strength of our companies and our association. As we get back to business, it has never been more important to be an IELA member and benefit from all IELA has to offer. This IELA Congress is a MUST-ATTEND-EVENT, 100% funded by the association. The coming months will be tough, We still have a lot of hard work to do, but together, united, we can and will succeed”.

The BEGINNER’S MIND events concentrate on common parameters where hands-on experience and “food for thought” are the predominant gains:


This year there were regional talks with open and constructive conversations focussing on the 2020-2021 lessons learned, the pandemic impact on SME’s as the main exhibitor profile but also as the world engine for economic recovery and the common need for connected foresight in the event & exhibition industry.


  • Aloysius ARLANDO, SACEOS President, Singapore – The Association perspective
  • Rodney COX, International Gas Union (IGU) Flagship Events Director Australia – The Pavillions perspective
  • Michael KRUPPE, SNIEC Shanghai New International Expo Centre Co. Ltd., CEO, General Manager, China – The Venue Owner and Organiser perspective
  • Sonia PRASHAR, IEIA Indian Exhibition Industry Association President, India – The Association, Organiser and German Indo Chamber of Commerce perspective


  • Sudhir DHAVAN, IELA Education & Training WG, Chairperson; R.E. Rogers India Pvt. Ltd., Chief Executive Officer, India
  • Elizabeth NIEHAUS, IELA Executive Officer



  • Naji EL HADDAD, UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, Regional Director, UAE – The Association perspective
  • Trixie LohMIRMAND, Dubai World Trade Centre, Executive Vice President, UAE – The Venue Owner and Organiser perspective


  • Daniel BYIJU, IELA Member; Masstrans Freight LLC, General Manager Fairs & Events, UAE
  • George JACOB, IELA Member; Agility Fairs & Events, Regional Director – Middle East & Africa, UAE



  • Alexander KOLDAU, VDMA, Manager Exhibitions, Germany – The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association perspective
  • Iain STIRLING, Mash Media Group Ltd, Exhibition World (EW), International Director, United Kingdom – The Media perspective
  • Barbara WEIZSÄCKER, EEIA, European Exhibition Industry Alliance and EMECA, Secretary General, Belgium – The Advocacy perspective
  • Ricard ZAPATERO, Fira Barcelona, International, Business Director, Spain – The Venue Owner and Organiser perspective


  • Garcia NEWELL, IELA Member; Agility Fairs & Events Logistics Ltd. Regional Business Development Director – Fairs and Events Europe, United Kingdom
  • Eve NOVIKOVA, IELA Member; Caspian Freight Services LLC Owner, Azerbaijan



  • Nick SAMAIN, dmg :: events, Vice President, Energy, Canada – The Organiser perspective
  • Victor E. SANTIAGO, Asociación Mexicana de Distribuidores de Maquinaria A.C, Marketing Coordinator, Mexico – The Association perspective
  • Malu SEVIERI, Emme Brazil General Manager, Messe Düsseldorf Representative, Brazil – The Organiser perspective


  • Mariane EWBANK, IELA Board Member; Fulstandig Shows e Eventos MC Ltda, Managing Director, Brazil
  • Ms. Kim VALDES, IELA Industry Relations WG, Vice-Chairperson; CargoLive, S. de R.L. de C.V., Trade Shows Manager, Mexico

THINK (crosstraining THE FUTURE)

    This session focused on the leading factors which affect our industry in the future: How are multinationals developing and which opportunities might emerge? Which scenarios arise? What are the opportunities for SMEs? Which technologies might change our industry and service?



  • Guido FORNELLI, IELA Chairperson; Expotrans SpA, Managing Director, Italy
  • Priscilla LEONG, Expotrans Pte Ltd, Managing Director, Singapore, (former Agility Fairs & Events, CEO)
  • Phil POWELL, Kuehne & Nagel UK former Director Event Logistics, Ceva Showfreight former Managing Director, IELA former Chairperson, United Kingdom
  • Jacqueline RUSSO, Global Expositions, Inc., Principal, United States, (former Kuehne+Nagel, Inc., Vice President)


  • Greg KEH, IELA Committee Member; TWI Group, Chief Operating Officer, United States

2. GIPR: Key Insights of an Industry in Transformation.

Sonia Thomas (jwc GmbH Senior Consultant) introduced the Global Industry Performance Review 2021, explaining inter alia the evolution of business models in our industry.

3. THINK like an Explorer:

Our Keynote Cathy O’Dowd was the first woman in the world to climb the world’s highest mountain from both its north and south sides. With the IELA audience Cathy shared the insights she has discovered about herself and about individuals and teams under intense stress in the face of overwhelming challenge.

4. ANTICIPATION: Foresight works. 

Anticipation has been indeed the wellspring of the exhibition & event industry since day 0: The pandemic has disrupted our world radically and it is time to go back to our roots and re-think the experience of anticipation itself and start again.


  • Loes DAMHOF, UNESCO, Futures Literacy Expert, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, The Netherlands
  • Robin LOKERMAN, MCI Group CEO, Switzerland
  • Sophie HOLT, Explori Managing Director, United Kingdom
  • Paul WOODWARD, Paul Woodward Advisory Chairman; Exhibition World, Guest Editor, United Kingdom


  • Rowena ARZT, WZF GmbH, Director Exhibitions, Germany


5. LEGENDS OF IELA: A bond of fellowship. 

It’s all about our origins! How our founders took their first steps and built from there. How did our founders face previous crisis? How can we harness the vitalizing founder mentality?


  • Steve BARRY, IELA Member ; TWI Group Inc. (USA), CEO and President, United States
  • Lucien LAWSON, IELA Member; Clamageran Foirexpo, Director, France
  • Christoph RAUCH, IELA Board Member; BTG Messe-Spedition GmbH, Managing Director, Germany


  • Mariane EWBANK, IELA Board Member; Fulstandig Shows e Eventos MC Ltda, Managing Director, Brazil
  • Robert MOORE, GEL Events, Chairman; IELA, former Chairperson, Australia

It’s all about IELA: taking a look behind the scenes and witness the efforts put in by members to guide IELA to the future. The WORKING GROUP SUMMIT was the opportunity to learn about the success stories from all four Working Groups.

The IELA congress would not be complete without the IELA AWARDS, taking place on the final day.  Over the past 12 months outstanding individuals in our industry have been empowering pillars for our teams and companies. The association deems it necessary to recognise these FACES of IELA as those who make the difference in our companies and industries.

We take this opportunity to congratulate the members elected FACES of IELA :

  1. Sudhir Dhavan – R.E. Rogers, India
  2. Bernhard Gilke & Thomas Ernst – DB Schenker, Germany
  3. Mike Weeks– LaRouxnelle, South Africa


Carry on the excellent work!

About the IELA Congress, June 28th– July 1st 2021- online https://live.iela.expoplatform.com/       Each year, the IELA members gather for the IELA Congress, our association’s annual flagship event. This year, 348 delegates registered for the online congress, from 48 countries registered to the platform.

About IELA:

The International Exhibition Logistics Association is the global industry network enhancing the professionalism of the transportation logistics and freight handling segments of the exhibition & event industry. IELA works with venue owners, organisers and national associations educating, training and sharing expertise for safe and secure operations around the world. The quality brand IELA is currently represented by 167 members and 26 affiliates in 56 countries.