Special Interest Sessions To Engage The Global Audience At The 84th UFI Global Congress


True to it’s theme on “Pressures & Profits”, the programme for this year’s UFI Global Congress is loaded with sessions focused on overcoming obstacles and adapting to change. The sessions will feature a number of respected, experienced and knowledgeable industry professionals sharing case studies of successes and failures, unpacking research results and discussing the latest trends within the exhibition industry. The UFI Global Congress, titled “Raising the Odds – Pressures and Profits in the Exhibition Industry”, will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg (South Africa) from 1-4 November 2017.

UFI’s Global Congress is the most international annual gathering in the exhibition industry, open to UFI members from around the world. Each year it brings together hundreds of organisers, venue operators, service providers and industry associations from more than 50 countries. Each year it is held in a different region. Johannesburg follows Shanghai (China) in 2016, and Milan (Italy) in 2015. The 2018 Congress is scheduled for Saint Petersburg (Russia).

On Thursday 2 November, the afternoon programme offers participants the opportunity to attend one of three parallel sessions respectively in two separate time slots. These Special Interest Group (SIG) discussions allow participants to select a topic that is of most interest to them, where the dialogues will be specific to the particular focus area. The Large Venue SIG is one of these special sessions. Moderated by the current UFI President and Member of the Managing Board, Deutsche Messe AG Hannover, Dr. Andreas Gruchow, this group will focus on event security and safety in turbulent times. Security remains a crucial factor within the exhibition and events industry when considering aspects such as crowd control, surveillance and security threats.

Discussions during this SIG will revolve around the participants’ different agendas and what venues and organisers are doing to ensure the safety of participants. How are security threats and the additional safety measures implemented impacting different businesses? What will the future hold for venue and event management – will it be business as usual or will industry players be forced to rethink the way they do business, trying to maintain a secure establishment while remaining hospitable and inviting to the public? Security is a delicate topic, often pushed aside as the “elephant in the room”, one which many do not wish to discuss openly. However, the world is changing and demanding that we consider how security impacts our venues, our clients and the effect it has on the industry as a whole. This will be a meeting worth attending for anyone involved in venue and event management.

Meanwhile, the Digital Innovation Committee will host the Digital Disruption SIG. The focus here will be on The Internet of Things (IoT). What does the internet of things mean for the exhibition industry? What are the effects that can be expected short and medium term? Who are the main actors? What are the possible applications and business models in our industry? Join the group for an interactive debate during which members of the audience will direct and influence interesting and engaging discussions on what the future digital world holds for our industry. The Large Venue and Digital Disruption SIG are only two of six topics participants at this year’s Congress can select from individually. Other SIG meetings include Best Industry Practices from Marketing to Sustainability, and sessions on Government Pavilions, Human Resources and the challenges of Family Businesses.


  • Quote from UFI MD, Kai Hattendorf about the Congress:

Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director and CEO explains: “Huge investments are being made in exhibitions and events, and economists predict that the exhibition industry will outgrow global economic growth. But at the same time, economic growth has slowed. Politically, protectionism is on the rise. And operationally, digitisation is driving ever-faster change within organisations. UFI’s 84th Global Congress in Johannesburg offers our members a vital chance to find solutions, stay ahead, keep in touch with exhibition industry colleagues worldwide.”

  • Comments on the Congress from UFI President: Dr Andreas Gruchow:

UFI has not held its Global Congress in Africa since 2003, when the Congress took place in Cairo, Egypt, and two years ago when we discussed the city candidates for 2017, there was a broad consensus that it was “time for Africa” again. It seems we made a timely decision,as interest in the region has grown quickly since. This year’s theme “Raising the Odds – Pressures and Profit” reflects the current situation our industry is facing. While our global industry is currently growing faster than the global economy, the pressure on the traditional business model is increasing. We are challenged to change in order to stay relevant as a marketing partner for exhibiting companies. Moreover, we will have to take calculated risks to fast-track our own industry development – on issues as diverse as talent development, digitisation, and serving our exhibitors well to make them successful. It is one of UFI’s unique qualities that we can cover this broad scope of topics at our Global Congress, and bring together best practises and experts from all around the world. This truly is our industry’s global meeting.

  • Comments by Global Congress host: Craig Newman, CEO Johannesburg Expo Centre:

The African continent has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the development of the global exhibitions, conferences and events industry, and South Africa has all of the necessary experience, expertise and infrastructure to be the official global gateway to the African continent. As an industry, we’re doing our part to change global perceptions, and positioning the African continent as a destination of choice with a multitude of advantages for international stakeholders. While the American, European and Asian markets have a legacy, their exhibitions, conferences and events industries are also saturated to some extent. This provides Africa with the biggest potential to grow. As stakeholders in the African market, we must become ambassadors of the industry, generate interest and create awareness that will attract global stakeholders to the local industry. We must raise the bar by looking at innovative ways in which we can expand and develop our industry. There are also a multitude of opportunities for us as venues, organisers and service providers to partner and combine our capabilities and experience to create a superior service offering and host the highest caliber of events. The industry is also fostering partnerships with government bodies and by getting their endorsement for key events, the industry also builds greater credibility, confidence and attracts more foreign investment. The local industry plays a massive role in business and leisure tourism, working with tourism bodies to raise awareness about the benefits of hosting global exhibitions. All of these initiatives will help to bring Africa to the forefront of the global exhibitions industry.


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