Exhibition Showcase Talks To Jochen Witt, President & CEO jwc GmbH

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ES. Having a strong career in Exhibition Industry your responsibility grew with time. Already served as Chairman of the European Chapter of UFI from 1999 to 2005 and President of UFI in 2007 and serving as a member of the Board of UFI. What are your views about UFI Global Congress and its role in developing / promoting the Global exhibition industry? How have you seen it evolve over the years?
Jochen. UFI is an outstanding organization with a membership consisting of all relevant players in the exhibition and trade fair industry. The association provides know how, it serves as excellent platform for global networking and secures a highly positive image of our industry globally. These three focus areas are summarized in UFI’s strategy and claim: Promote, Inform, Network (PIN). The annual UFI Congress, being the “Pow Wow” of the industry, is the culmination of these activities.

The Congress as such has evolved very positively over the last 20 years. It started as a very formal multilingual event with many translators and all papers being prepared in various languages. In the late 90s we decided to only have one language and to establish regional chapters. Later on Special Interest Groups and Working Groups were added, all with the aim of enhancing the know how transfer in the industry. This development has definitely made the Congress more attractive, even though we have now arrived at a point where we should critically review the number of different events and work on consolidation to secure delivery of top quality.

ES. Your Global Industry Reviews were much sought after and appreciated at the UFI Global Congress each year. Can you share some interesting infographics depicting facts and figures about the Global, Asian and Indian exhibition industry in current times?
Jochen. Jwc will issue a written Global Market Update towards the end of 2019/beginning of 2020. This report will not have all the in-depth analysis of my Global Industry Reviews, which I presented at the Congresses, but it will give the reader an overview of the most important developments in markets relevant to our industry.

When looking at the business in Asia, I’d like to share one of the most interesting graphs with you (see below): The picture shows that in most of the western countries incl. Russia the business in terms of net rented m² has been stagnant from 2008 to 2017, and that the main drivers for m² growth have been the Asian countries. We expect this trend to continue at least for the next two – three years.

ES. With Indian exhibition industry growing at the fastest pace, what are your thoughts about the Indian scenario?
Jochen. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about the “Indian Scenario”. On the one hand I see the comparison to China, where the industry grows at about the same rate as in India, but on a much higher basis: China’s trade fair industry is more than 10 times larger than India’s, so India has a long way to go. On the other hand I see the positive development of the Indian economy and, as a result, the growing interest of international organizers in the Indian market. In addition, new venues are developed to meet the needs of organizers and exhibitors.

Unfortunately those developments do not reflect the latest standards in venue quality, but they are at least a good step into the right direction.
In summary I believe that China has realized the importance of the trade fair business for the development of the domestic and regional economy and, as a consequence, Governments have invested heavily into venue developments. In my view the Indian Government and/or the regional/local Governments in India should adopt that approach and support new venue developments at highest international standards. The organizing business will follow.

ES. How can a country become hotspot for exhibitions? What can be the main points that a government can do to lure foreign organizers?
Jochen. Organizers and exhibitors base their decision where to hold/participate at an event on many criteria: First and foremost, it is the relevant economy, e.g. market potential, sufficient exhibitor and visitor numbers in quantity and quality. Then other criteria are also of relevance, i.e. availability of space, quality of venue, theme protection, hotels, venue accessibility, legal restrictions etc., just to name a few. In some of these areas Governments can become active and make a location more attractive to organizers and exhibitors. Trying to lure organizers with financial benefits is mostly a waste of money.

ES. Please share your thoughts on key industry issues like – Role of women in exhibition industry, digital transformation, sustainable events, Please share your thoughts on key industry issues like – Role of women in exhibition industry, digital transformation, sustainable events, festivalisation of events, millennials & Gen Z in industry?
Jochen. These are topics for a multi-day seminar In my view the most relevant trends are:

(1) Content is king: Exhibitions and conferences/congresses will become more and more integrated. This needs to be reflected in venue plans.

(2) Digitalization: Can reduce costs of organizers, but most importantly must help both exhibitors and visitors to make participation in an event either more convenient or more successful. This can be achieved through venue access management, matchmaking solutions, 24/7 platforms, visitor tracking, visitor orientation and navigation etc.

(3) Data management: Data are key assets of an organizer. So it is essential to have clear concepts of how to collect, store, protect and analyze data. Data management is foremost a strategic and not a digital topic; organizers should know what kind of data they already have, they don’t have and what kind of data to look for.

When working with clients we are often surprised that there is no understanding about these questions. In addition, we often find unclear legal provisions between organizers, venues, service providers and other parties with re. to the rights to use customer data.

(4) Performance alignment: Service quality of all parties involved in the delivery of an event needs to be aligned. Our observation is that the brand experience of exhibitors and visitors at a show is often distorted by highly different performances of the different parties (i.e. venues, organizers, service providers) involved in delivering an event.

(5) Quality instead of quantity: We expect average show size to decrease in the future, except for the younger and booming markets of China, India and ASEAN. Therefore, venues should place greater focus on creating quality space, thus matching the changing needs of organizers and their clients. The current approach, which you find predominantly in Europe and which is focusing on maintaining size, is going into the wrong direction.

(6) Festivalization: Is overrated. Exhibitors want the visitors on their booth and not at festivals. If we find a good balance between festivalization and the interests of exhibitors, it may be to the benefit of the event.

(7) Women in the industry: There are more women than men working in our industry, except in leadership positions. That has to change.

(8) Millennials & Gen Z: They will also get older! If we manage to provide attractive content, innovation and entertainment and if we make events emotionally striking, I am not concerned.

(9) Sustainability: It is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland report, United Nations 1987). Sustainable buildings, reduction of the C02 footprint and energy consumption along with waste reduction need to be on top of our agenda. Venues, organizers and service providers must jointly work towards these goals, e.g. when looking at booth construction much waste can be avoided in the right venues, with the right organizer, and with the right service provider. We know of some good examples, but the industry has still a long way to go in this dimension.

ES. What are the three key areas in India where JWC had worked?
Jochen. Strategy, venue assessment and development, pricing of trade fair services, training. We had very good experiences, met professional colleagues, one of the main caveats was data accuracy and availability.

ES. Can you share with us any interesting case study/learning for the trade show organizers or stakeholders?
Jochen. Two real life examples may serve as illustrations:
In the second month of my time as CEO of Koelnmesse, one of our major shows took place – Domotechnica, a B2B show for white goods and household appliances. The show was dominated by 3-4 bellwethers, all of them competing 3ercely. These companies, consequently, had increased their presences steadily over previous editions, resulting in one spending €8m on 5,000sqm of exhibition space for 3ve days. When I visited their stand, the CEO and new CFO stated, surprisingly, that this was the last edition for them, claiming the “show would not render an appropriate ROI” and “costs were not justi3able”. The company withdrew, its competitors followed and, after two more editions, the show had to be discontinued. In recent times a similar development occurred at Baselworld, where some exhibitor spending exceeded reasonable levels due to volume and heavy price increases. Some bellwethers withdrew, citing lack of ROI and preferences for other means of marketing, along with management failures. I do not think the show will collapse any time soon, but it will need a fundamental repositioning – meanwhile the 3nancial losses for the organiser are severe. What were the lessons learned? Although it is always tempting to see exhibitors increase their investments into a show, organisers need to act as moderators of exhibitor spending. A tradefair is the only product where the customer is
part of the product: A withdrawal of bellwethers changes the DNA and the character of the show and is di9cult or even impossible to compensate. Where shows depend on key participants, organisers should be highly alert with regard to the spending habits of those
companies. The Easyfairs model may be a way around this problem, but I assume the company will also have di9cult discussions if bellwethers want to demonstrate their market leading position on a show. Nevertheless, a regular assessment of exhibitor costs and ROI is a “must” and can prevent organisers from facing bad surprises. As the Domotechnica example demonstrated, regular customer satisfaction surveys do not provide the necessary insights. The abovementioned exhibiting company at Domotechnica had always been “extremely” happy with the show, with management stating only six months prior to the show, that it was a “huge asset for them” and a “must attend event”. It became obvious that the company’s spend at the show was not driven by internal ROI calculations but by the desire to have a more impressive show appearance than its competitors. With the arrival of the new CFO, costs of participation became the critical focus. It is, clearly, hard to defend a spend of €8m.

ES. Your favorite Book
Jochen. Sándor Márai, Embers

ES. Your 3 favorite holiday destinations in order of preference

Jochen. Jaisalmer, Palitana, Nainital

ES. Your most cherished possession:
Jochen. Everything you “possess” is only borrowed

ES. Your message to the world
Jochen. Travel the world!

ES. Your favorite quote
Jochen. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before

ES. Your favorite food
Jochen. Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese

ES. Your favorite hobby
Jochen. Travelling, Photography, Cycling

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