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Celebrating Global Exhibitions Day with rebuilding message

This year the fifth edition of Global Exhibitions Day (GED) was a mostly virtual celebration on 3 June 2020. EW spoke to its Creative Director, Comexposium’s Caitlin Read about the themes and goals.


The main theme for #GED2020 has been (fittingly given the coronavirus crisis) ‘Exhibitions are key to rebuilding economies’ and it has been a campaign needed as never before.

Caitlin Read, Comexposium’s Communications Director, stepped up to the plate to lead the creativity and bring out the numerous personal stories abundant in our dynamic industry.

“GED is a celebration we’ve always taken to heart at Comexposium,” she said, “and a great way to promote being part of the industry. “Externally, it is a great way to get people a bit more knowledgeable about the things we do.

It is the biggest day of advocacy and awareness we have in the industry – the hope and optimism day. You should feel proud. This is your day if you’re involved in this industry.”

For #GED2020 Read brought in a three-track approach: lobbying, showcasing and laying down a ‘drumbeat’.

The strategy is mirroring the steps forward around the world, with Germany lobbying hard for business events not to be considered as ‘mass gatherings’ and China beginning to open up again.

The campaign has also tried to show that the exhibition industry is not “a nebulous thing,” says Read. “We are big local supporters and you can see that with the venue and contractor activity.”

The marketing ‘drumbeat’, she notes, includes getting the main big numbers out into the media, such as the 32,000 exhibitions a year that take place. “We want people to be equipped with those messages.”

As important as the data and statistics have been, for Read, showing the human and emotional side around all the things that happen in our events is important.

“All around the world people have great stories,” she says, and it is important the wider world knows all about our CSR activities and how we connect people and build business.

“Exhibitions are much more than a one-dimensional transaction,” she underlines.

Many event professionals were encouraged to share their ‘Choices of the exhibition industry’ cards and thoughts on the future of the industry via video, as well as some scenes from their working lives in events.

Another key message for the 2020 campaign has been, ‘Don’t be afraid to try’ and Read and her co-panellists put out some great tips at the UFI Connects webinar session on creativity recently.

She adds that another aim of the campaign is to have fun doing it.

“Having a good time is what a lot of it is about. Programmes like GED should make people feel good and happy afterwards,” she says.

And Read is aware we still have some work to do – there is still some unfamiliarity over what we do. “We still don’t have the vocabulary to say what the exhibition industry is all about, although the situation is getting better.”

Read is also keen to remind us of all the innovations and heritage involved with exhibitions and is keen to the transmit the excitement, whether it be showing old footage of Einstein at a show, or the achievements at World Fairs in days gone by. “Imagine being there,” says Read. “Such moments are happening at our shows today and are building the world now.”

The #GED2020 campaign was helped by the typical event planning skills brought to bear, with templates, materials, ideas all available on the UFI website for customised use.

#GED2020 was actively supported not just by UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, but by its 41 partner associations throughout the world.

The campaign has continued to promote the message that face-to-face exhibitions are the fastest way to reconnect with the marketplace, and that the connections made at exhibitions will lead to the renewal of the economy.

As UFI President Mary Larkin said, in the spirit of creating an opportunity out of a crisis, we must “ensure that everyone knows the role we play in an economic recovery”.

You can watch the Mash Sessions video of the extended interview with Caitlin Read here