Message from UFI President Mary Larkin – November 2020

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It is hard to believe that a year has passed since I accepted the role of President of UFI during the 2019 Congress in Bangkok. And what a year it has been! As I write my final column as President, I marvel at how the industry has come together in a time of crisis and is ensuring that we will come out of this pandemic stronger and better than before. As we entered a new decade, we had no idea what was going to hit our industry. During the CEO Summit in Rome in February, the discussion around COVID 19 was only beginning and we were quickly challenged in a way that was to test our resiliency, solidarity and our ability to pivot to find ways to keep in contact with our customers, suppliers and colleagues.

The past eight months have taught us the importance of advocacy and how we need to show the impact our events have on the many industries we serve, for small companies to be able to grow their businesses and the economic impact events have on cities, hospitality and the employment of the venues that host our events. And we have done all of that and more! At the beginning of my Presidency, I laid out the initiatives I felt needed to have focus during my term. For a while, they took a backseat while working on COVID related matters, but I wanted to make sure I was not wasting the opportunity to drive those initiatives forward. Diversity in Leadership and Sustainability were my focus for as President, and I am thrilled to say that we did have impact! More women have stood for election to the Board of Directors of UFI than ever before, we have gone from a Board with only 7 women to a Board with 16 women or now 28%! There is an energy driving change and quite frankly, modernization.

UFI is the global industry leader in sustainability work for our industry. The Sustainability Working Group is one of the most engaged teams at UFI and they delivered on their plan to focus on “Waste Management in the Exhibition’s Industry”. They have identified best practices in waste management from across the globe through the 2020 awards competition on “Best Waste Management” and established the baseline for future action, again making sure we are better than before!

So, as we come to the end of the most challenging year in our industry’s history, I am hopeful for our industry to be “Better Than Before”. We should not be satisfied with a new normal but work collectively to create an industry that is better than we could have ever imagined. I would like to congratulate Anbu Varathan on his upcoming Presidency, to welcome Monica Lee-Müller to the Trio, and to thank Craig Newman for all his hard work as part of the Trio and as Outgoing President.

Finally, I want to thank every one of the UFI staff and team members for their unrelenting hard work throughout this challenging year. Led by Kai and Sonia, they have shown true resiliency, guidance and leadership in this time of crisis ensuring that UFI will be even better than before!