Exhibition Think Tank – one year on

The Exhibition Think Tank Club (ETT-Club) has celebrated its first anniversary. Founder Matthias Tesi Baur, who is also CEO of MBB-Consulting Group, looks back on what has been achieved and what the plans are for the months to come.


What started as a ‘one off think tank’ to discuss challenges the industry was facing due to Covid, is now a club uniting more than 800 industry peers. More than 15 sub-groups have been formed and are managed by exhibition professionals around the world, following the spirit of the Think Tank: “We have no hierarchy – we only have ideas”. 

The ETT-Club takes pride in its unique start-up atmosphere, designed to make industry peers feel welcome right from the beginning. All voices are equal, whether it be from a student, middle management, senior management or a friend from an adjacent or supporting industry.  This has created a can-do atmosphere in all ETT-Club events, including panel discussions, think tanks and town hall meetings. 

In October 2020, we were pleased to welcome UFI as an official partner. They have agreed to sponsor up to 300 UFI-Gold ETT Memberships. A year on, the ETT-Club has hosted over 40 events with most being initiated by members, and we are proud to have created a platform for the event industry to collaborate and discuss innovations. 

One of the ETT-Club’s current projects is a series of events under the theme of the ‘Journey to reopen the exhibition industry’. Through this series, industry peers in regions who have begun hosting in-person exhibitions are sharing their knowledge with those in regions who are gearing up to kickstart in-person events. The club has received immense support for this series with over 120 exhibition professionals from across the world joining as ambassadors. Thanks to the support of industry members worldwide, 12 online events have been held under this theme including: panel discussions to discuss findings from peers in the Middle East on how their journey to reopen the industry has panned out, launch event opportunities, and learnings and insights from the reopening of exhibitions. The ‘Journey to reopen the exhibition industry’ series will continue to run until mid-July.

A permanent online session from the ETT Club is the Monthly Innovation Talk which covers a range of topics. Talks under the themes ‘Value Proposition’ and ‘Digital & AI’ have already launched with the subject of ‘People & Skills’ to follow after the summer break. 

The ‘Value Proposition’ talks, which are chaired by Simon Foster, bring more than 100 industry peers together to discuss how our target groups are fulfilling their objectives during the pandemic and how the industry’s digital/hybrid products have been perceived. The group conducted a survey which produced some eye-opening results. While the findings strongly indicate that the objective of ‘education and content’ is served well through digital events, all other customer objectives such as ‘sales’, ‘lead generation’, ‘brand building’ and so on, have been underserved through digital formats. This has meant customers have started to shift budgets to other B2B solution providers. The survey also showed that these other providers were able to generate good customer satisfaction with their alternative B2B channels. In other words, we were able to identify where money is leaving the industry and if this money is likely to be shifted back to our products once in-person exhibitions are running again. 

These sessions are just some examples of how the ETT-Club is a platform for learning, developing and enhancing our knowledge of the exhibition industry. Following the crisis, the ETT-Club continues to welcome everybody, from middle to senior management, to discuss and innovate together on how our industry can come back stronger.