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The Ripple Effect: Event Professionals Disrupt and Innovate at UFI Shanghai

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Anthony Floreano

Managing Director, Freeman EMEA

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Greg Cherry

Business Development Director

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UFI embraced a forward-thinking approach at its 2016 Congress

Earlier this month, more than 600 event professionals headed to Shanghai for the 83rd UFI Global Congress, an annual event for leaders across the global exhibition industry. This year’s event theme was “ripples,” and acted as a springboard for discussion around how the exhibitions industry is in a state of transformation. 

Our managing director for Freeman in EMEA, Anthony Floreano, and Greg Cherry, business development director at Freeman in EMEA, were among the attendees. They share some of the top learnings and highlights of the 2016 event below. 

It’s All About the Data

GREG: Data collection was a topic that attracted a lot of interest among delegates, which comes as no surprise, as many organisers consider data to be one of the most important things that they own — it enables them to see who is attending their events, and the behaviours attendees display as they make their way around a venue. 

It was interesting to see the new data collection methods that are becoming available. For example, crowdsourcing was posed as an effective data capture tool if used in the right way.

With all of this focus on actually capturing the data, there was talk that we need to remember that the analysis stage is equally important — many delegates agreed that we should draw on things like data analytics software to ensure we get the most out of this valuable delegate information. 

Technology: It’s Still High on the Agenda

GREG: Many sessions and panels turned to technology and how it will impact events. On the opening day of the congress, Etienne Chia, VP, Digital & Strategy at the newly launched FreemanXP office in Shanghai, delved into how the industry can embrace digital to create more personalised event experiences for attendees. He explained that this approach enables organisers to create more meaningful connections with their audiences. It’s a great point to consider, given people consume personalised content in other areas of their lives, and many have come to expect the same at events.

There was the idea that with the advent of technology, we’ve seen the value of face-to-face communication skyrocket — which is great for our industry. There was also talk about the intersection between face-to-face and digital — a term we refer to as ‘onlive’ — where technology is used to enhance rather than take away from the live experience.

While it was clear that no one knows exactly what we can expect from technology in the future, the consensus was that this interaction is no doubt going to change, with things like mixed reality, gene editing, and geo location technology all noted as developments to watch.

What’s New: Our Future Leaders and Fresh Formats

ANTHONY: The inaugural Next Generation Leadership Grant (NGL) session was a highlight for me. It was really exciting to see the impact our future leaders are having on the sector now and into the future. 

During the session each of the five grant recipients, which included our very own Jennifer Feeney from FreemanXP, took to the stage to discuss how they are disruptively driving the exhibitions industry forward in their respective areas of expertise. Launched earlier this year, the global NGL initiative celebrates young event professionals pro-actively driving change and innovation within the industry.

The UFI Xchange: Event Tech session was another great addition. In a similar vein to the TED Talks style, representatives from various companies took to the stage to talk us through technology solutions and how we can apply them to our own events.

As always, the UFI Global Congress was informative and insightful. This year’s focus was very much around the different ways the industry can continuously change, disrupt and innovate, to ensure we deliver memorable and measurable events for our clients, exhibitors, and attendees. We’re already looking forward to next year!

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