All signal, no noise for UFI's Asia-Pacific digital conference, reflecting an industry on the rebound

Global association of the exhibition industry, UFI reports that 250 delegates tuned in digitally and networked online at its UFI Asia-Pacific Conference, 20 May.

The ‘All signal, no noise’ programme drew top speakers and reconnected a pandemic-affected exhibition industry community digitally across the Asia-Pacific.

Speakers from across and beyond the region provided insights into topics as diverse as policy updates, best practices on adapting events to the current context, and opportunities and trends in the field of mergers and acquisitions. Experts from industries such as e-sports and theme parks offered strategies to deliver customer-centric products and services under changing circumstances. “It has been a uniquely difficult year for our industry. So, it was more important than ever for UFI to give our members an opportunity to gather, reconnect and share experiences. Of course, we would have preferred to meet face to face, but this year’s online Asia-Pacific Conference did provide a platform for our delegates to learn, network and look to the future in a post-pandemic world. On behalf of the UFI team, I also want to thank the speakers and panellists for delivering such compelling and valuable content. And I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are already excited to meet in person, in Macau, at the 2022 UFI Asia-Pacific Conference,” said Mark Cochrane, UFI regional director for the Asia-Pacific region, who moderated the event.

Keynote speaker Margaret Ma Connolly, president and CEO of Informa Markets in Asia, said: “The return of visitors to physical shows has been better than expected across China, where shows restarted in summer 2020.” Her message to the industry, when looking towards to a more ‘hybrid’, digital future, is to focus on customers. “Tech is an enabler; service is king. And the ROI for the customer is gold,” she added.

Jor Zhou, CEO of GL events China, told the conference he foresaw an ongoing consolidation among exhibition organisers across China. “Confidence in the Chinese market among international organisers remains high,” he said, and he forecast more deals between Chinese and international organisers to be concluded in the coming months.

Prakash Ramajillu, division director at Koelnmesse, and Andy Anderson, technology director at Hong Kong Disneyland, shared trends and developments from the areas of e-gaming and theme park management, to serve as pointers for developments on and around show floors.

Kenny Yong, founder and group CEO of Fireworks Trade Media, reported his experiences in staging and successfully running tradeshows, despite the pandemic, in markets across South East Asia. His two key pieces of advice: “Be prepared for a game of roulette if you do intend to hold your show, and be honest, open and realistic about what the show will look like with your exhibitors.”

Participants also connected live to the show floor at Art Basel Hong Kong, and received a guided tour of the event, delivered by Andrew Strachan, managing director at MCH Group Asia, and Megan Leckie, regional head of VIP Relations Asia. They said it had been “exhilarating” to see attendees on site and so excited to re-connect.

In contrast, Danny He, from Alibaba Group, shared the online tradeshow strategy they are rolling out via a number of digital tradeshows, some in collaboration with organisers of physical events.

Wendy Lai, vice-president of Global Sources Exhibitions in Hong Kong, led a session on building digital communities. Keeping communities engaged year round is a challenge for many exhibition organisers, and she shared tips and tricks to do just that.

Tom Mouhsian, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, based in Singapore, added a global perspective on the return of global travel patterns, citing the need for collaboration among governments around the world. He called the decision by the European Commission to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travellers “the first globally relevant, meaningful initiative to drive travel.”

A global panel on corporate travel and meeting trends wrapped up the day-long programme. All sessions are still available to watch on demand for registered delegates on the Grip platform.

Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO said: “We are pleased we could deliver a day packed with insightful information and data for our industry across the Asia-Pacific region – within the limits of a digital-only format. In 2022, the UFI Asia-Pacific Conference will return as an on-site, in-person event, and we look forward to meeting everyone face to face again, in Macao.”

UFI's MEA Conference takes place 26 May as a hybrid event from Dubai and its European Conference, a digital-only event, will be held 9-10 June.