Michael Duck shares his thoughts in a candid interview to Exhibition Showcase

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Informa Markets has announced the appointment of Michael Duck as Executive Vice President – Commercial Development across its global business.Informa Markets has announced the appointment of Michael Duck as Executive Vice President – Commercial Development across its global business. Duck joined Informa Markets in 1994 and has worked in various leadership roles, focused on building up the company’s presence in the Asia region, especially in China and India, and expanding events into the Middle East and Africa. He founded and chaired the Asia, Middle East and Africa and Sustainability chapters for events industry body UFI, before spending 10 years overseeing the Cruise and Beauty verticals in the United States. Most recently, Duck has overseen Sinoexpo, and the Informa Markets Leather, Food, Building and Maritime products in Asia.

In this newly created role, Duck will work across the global Informa Markets business, which spans 30+ international markets, acting as the main point of contact for building relationships and a pipeline of growth activity in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and beyond, through M&A and the internationalisation of products and brands. He will also support the wider Informa Group divisions, including Pharma Intelligence and Academic Publishing, with commercial activity in Asia. Informa Markets CEO, Charlie McCurdy, said of the appointment: “Michael has been instrumental in building up the company’s presence across the globe and he holds important relationships with industry partners, government bodies and venue partners. I have every confidence that he is uniquely positioned to act as our global point of contact for commercial development.” Duck said: “Informa has evolved into a digital business with strong physical assets – and this is something our customers are excited about exploring. Our products help our customers to grow their businesses. We are ready to forge new relationships in both our existing markets and through expanding into new geographies and verticals.”

ES. Congratulations on your new role as Executive Vice President – Commercial Development at Informa Markets. Please share with us your thoughts on this occasion and what will be the facets of your new role?
Michael Duck. In particular the key facets for me are to continue to grow the company and link across our group assets potential opportunities. Also link our companies throughout with Governments and associations that may enhance our shows . So I am pleased that I will continue to visit India and have links across the exhibition industry and with the Indian Government.

ES. Please share with us your thoughts on how this pandemic has disrupted our industry and what have been the major learnings coming from it that can make our industry wiser? Michael Duck. I don’t know how it can make me any wiser ?!… but certainly the industry globally has been significantly challenged and all the associated industries that rely on Exhibitions . I suppose a learning is that we should always be better prepared , and always understand that life is fragile and so quickly can it be disturbed. Hence the need for all of us to work together to rebuild and restart.

 

ES. Informa Markets has been among the 1st organisers who started their events post COVID. Can you share with us the insights gained from events organised thus far? How many physical events have you organised since COVID and in how many countries primarily?
Michael Duck. Well, we have not got to the post Covid time yet. We are all still ‘in the thick of it’ . We have though been able to trade shows in particular in China, and also in Hong Kong , Japan, Taiwan , Thailand , Dubai, Cairo and Florida . In all cases though these were B2B shows with domestic exhibitors and domestic trade visitors.

ES. Informa was also among the 1st organisers to launch virtual shows. Can you share your insights on the dynamics of virtual shows, their success and some insights from having organised some of them?
Michael Duck. Yes, our company started in Virtual trade fair software production some 10 + years ago in Chicago. I think overall as a company then we put on some 100+ shows…the internet speed though was very slow compared to today. We were too early!.

So, we are fortunate to be able to use hybrid show versions with the new software that we operate. Its still ‘ work in progress’ but exhibitors and buyers are starting to get used to the format.

ES. With the starting of vaccinations and dip in cases (in some regions like India) and also on the other hand a situation where new wave is forcing extended lockdowns in some regions (in Europe).. What is your take on this complex situation and its implications in 2021?
Michael Duck. Complex is certainly the right word to use! ……and as I said in earlier meetings in India last year that who knew all the industries were so fragile and strong industries like Airlines could fold so quickly ? In medical opinions I read we have to vaccinate more than 50% of each population to see a significant reduction of cases. We need then at least 5/6 weeks of “NO, NEW CASES” !……and to travel or stay in hotels we will need to have a digital health passport.

ES. What according to you will be the trends in 2021 and beyond for our industry and your forecasts for recovery?
Michael Duck. Trends will be, to continue to open up the domestic markets and to slowly allow international visitors in with appropriate health certificates . We will be rebuilding this year to instill confidence in the next year.

ES. As the Executive Vice President – Commercial Development at Informa Markets, what will be your upcoming plans & roadmap ahead?
Michael Duck. Do you really have 1 hour to read my answer ?…I think not. But in short to restart confidence and try to reduce the anxiety that is affecting all the companies in our business. I look forward to also re engaging with old contacts and making new ones too in trying to expand and improve the links our businesses have around the world.

ES. In one of your recent statements you quoted, “Informa has evolved into a digital business with strong physical assets – and this is something our customers are excited about exploring”. Does this reflect your increased impetus of going digital in future?
Michael Duck. Without a doubt Covid has sped up all our digital business platforms and this newly created link with our physical assets can only but grow.

ES. As one of industry’s global thought leaders, do you perceive a significant role of physical exhibitions in the new normal or a diminishing one in context of how this industry is seen by the participants?

Michael Duck. I am in no doubt that physical exhibitions will continue to play and important part of any company’s marketing , having experienced recently shows in Hong Kong where in 2 hours of opening , it felt like that both exhibitors and buyers were back to ‘ normal’ . It was a great thrill to feel that ‘ buzz ‘ on the floor once again.

ES. As a leader in command of so many international markets, how do you see the talent pool in our industry and what will be your suggestion to working professionals in the industry towards career growth & skill development in this industry?

Michael Duck. We have great talent across our industry and in India these last 15 years or so I have seen significant  professionalism in our industry  ‘come alive’…long may it continue.  Michael Duck. We have great talent across our industry and in India these last 15 years or so I have seen significant  professionalism in our industry  ‘come alive’…long may it continue. For working professionals  I’d say ..’ be open to learning what your buyers are wanting and how to give them confidence in what you have to offer them”.

ES. What according to you will be the role of venues and the preparations they will need to thrive in the new normal?
Michael Duck. They will have to provide excellent facilities with incorporated strong signal wifi and full health cleanliness before and during and after shows take place ………and to be part of the formula to re build the exhibition business.

ES. If you have to pick and choose your favorite 3 tradeshows globally (informa or non informa portfolio), who would they be and why?
Michael Duck. Cosmoprof Asia Hong Kong …… I was involved with the launch of this show 26 years ago and today at 60.000 m2 net is one of the most beautiful shows in the world.

  • Furniture China – Shanghai  — again a show that is part of our business …showcases the  best in design and interiors around the world.Furniture China – Shanghai  — again a show that is part of our business …showcases the  best in design and interiors around the world.
  • ANUGA – Cologne. A show I started to attend 35 years ago!……the food and drink on offer covers the best  from around the world…………..just amazing what is on exhibited !

 

A quick rapid fire:

ES. Your favorite quote
Michael Duck. A moments insight is worth a lifetime’s experience “ ..Oliver Wendell Holmes

ES. Your last binge watch
Michael Duck. David Attenborough “” Planet Earth “ – BBC

ES. Last book you read
Michael Duck. William Darymple – “ City of Djinns “

ES. Your inspiration in life
Michael Duck. My children and my new grandson !

ES. Your favorite holiday destination
Michael Duck. New Zealand

ES. One thing you would definitely do in 2021
Michael Duck. Go trout fishing ! as I missed out last year due to Covid