THE DOMESTIC MARKET FEATURES A NUMBER OF PECULIARITIES
ES. What convinced you that it was important to get involved and ultimately serve in a leadership role? Please take us through your professional journey since inception and some major milestones achieved over the years.
Corrado Peraboni. To be honest, I got involved in the trade show world almost by chance about 26 years ago when I represented the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs at the trade fair organising body in my city. I was so fascinated by this world that I decided to make a career of it, starting from less operational roles and then becoming a manager in companies that directly organised exhibitions. My first experience with a global organiser was the years I spent on the Board of FMI, a joint venture between Fiera Milano and the then Reed Exhibition. When my experience in Milan came to an end, and before starting my experience at IEG, I also enjoyed launching an event as an entrepreneur: the Milan Pet Week.
ES. IEG Group has a global network of subsidiary companies. How do you see IEG Group’s journey unfolding over the years the timeline of major developments?
Corrado Peraboni. Two years ago, just before the pandemic, IEG launched an ambitious international expansion project. For years we have been the national leader in terms of turnover from directly organised events and we wanted to take this expertise outside Italy. With top-class partners, we are now active in Dubai, Brazil and Mexico and have a consolidated presence in China. During 2022 we will be announcing three more important operations that we have been working on for months.
ES. You have elaborate & diverse experience in the exhibition industry. How have you seen the industry evolving over these years from the time when you started in this industry?
Corrado Peraboni. If I had to pinpoint a common trend in all these years, I would say it is the increasing internationality. The pandemic will not stop this trend but it will change it profoundly: the big shows that are able to attract overseas visitors will need much more time to catch up with 2019 levels, if they ever do. For trade show organisers, the international post-pandemic challenge will be having their products directly organised in more markets. In short, I think exhibitors will travel more than visitors and if they don’t travel with us, they will do so with one of our competitors.
ES. What is the state of the Exhibition sector in Italy? Are there any trends shaping the Exhibition sector in Italy today?
Corrado Peraboni. The domestic market, one of the most important, features a number of peculiarities, for example: the big international players are almost totally absent (among the few, RX with MCE); very few private entrepreneurs organise more than one show; many of the major fairs are organised by trade associations. These things will cause some problems for our trade show system; one only has to think of the difficulties that associations, whose events have become international by bringing buyers from other continents here, may encounter in organising shows in different markets. In fact, in Italy, the non-profit nature of many organisers, i.e., associations, contributes to the fact that the costs of participating in a fair are among the lowest in mature markets.
ES. How have you adapted to the new reality in the meetings industry, which is much more digital and hybrid?
Corrado Peraboni. It was important to discover, after the pandemic, that the standard set-up for the future of congresses and events will be a format that fully recaptures the in-person formula while absorbing the digital, thus enabling it to reach new targets, especially abroad, as well as to be modular, both in the offer and the perceived value of content. In short, conferences and events have not become more hybrid or more digital, they have become “also” hybrid and digital in a complementary way to the traditional in-person formula.
ES. What are your thoughts on issues that you believe will pose significant challenges and opportunities for the exhibition industry in the coming times?
Corrado Peraboni. In the hope that the problems of the pandemic and geopolitical tensions will soon be overcome, I would say the need to attract talent to our industry. For some years now it has been difficult to convince young talents, who often see trade fairs as out-of-date, that this is actually a very dynamic sector. After two years of closure, many of the candidates we selected were afraid to enter an industry that has suffered so many difficulties. We are thinking of initiatives to promote in universities to explain how embarking on a career in our sector can be a really smart move.
ES. Sitting at the helm of affairs at IEG Group, you must have kept a keen eye on the morale of your employees through the crisis. How did you manage to keep them engaged, inspired, efficient & effective during these hard times?
Corrado Peraboni. Let’s start with the most important fact: nobody at IEG lost their job because of the pandemic. Everyone, from top management to blue collar workers, gave up something and we came out of it with an even stronger team spirit. During the pandemic, our #IEGNONSIFERMA (Iegdoesntstop) project kept all of our human capital in contact and active and it is no coincidence that numerous business development projects were devised during that period.
ES. What are some of the most iconic shows of IEG Group that you are particularly fond of (across various regions) and why?
Corrado Peraboni. I would say RiminiWellness (which we are replicating with different formats in Dubai, Mexico and Brazil) due to its dynamism; Ecomondo/Key Energy for their topicality; Vicenzaoro (Gold and Jewellery) for its leadership position; Sigep (sweet and ice cream) for its ability to represent Italian food excellence. These are all products that we are replicating on international markets, either alone or in partnership with other global players.
ES. On another note, what do you enjoy the most about your work? Please share your hobbies, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?
Corrado Peraboni. I’m a very inquisitive person, so working with a portfolio that ranges from jewellery to beer-bottling machines is really nice because I get to learn about so many different sectors. As for hobbies… since Aleksandra, my first daughter, arrived 21 months ago, I spend every spare minute being a dad. All that’s left then is a few good books to read when she falls asleep.
ES. Would you like to share any message with the industry?
Corrado Peraboni. We are an industry that regularly faces moments of incredible disruption but so far, we have always bounced back, perhaps because we have intangible pillars, in other words, the people who work with us.