Music to the industry’s ears

Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director/CEO

At our UFI LATAM Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, earlier this month, the UFI Running Club collaborated with the Midnight Runners, turning our usual group jog into something of a run and an exercise routine at the same time. The power of music transformed the experience for everyone.

Inspired by this, I am writing to share a playlist that characterises our industry right now. I want to challenge you to join, especially as Global Exhibitions Day is just around the corner. Share a song that expresses a recent experience you had in our industry, a title that showcases or symbolises what is happening in our industry, or a tune that describes the mood around you and your colleagues.

Here are five songs to get our playlist started:

Heaven is a Place on Earth, by Belinda Carlisle

At our recent conferences in Poznan and Buenos Aires, we gave the stage to exhibitors. We asked them to share their expectations and feedback after returning to face-to-face exhibitions after the pandemic.

Enter Santiago Bravo, head of advertising, promotions and customer experience at Scania in Latin America. With all the beauty of the Spanish language, he said: “Being back at an exhibition was like touching heaven with our hands”. This is a great metaphor to describe the pent-up demand we are seeing around the world for face-to-face business meetings.

Changes, by David Bowie

David Bowie died (too early) in 2016, just before the Global CEO Summit in Munich, Germany. Someone had the idea to play Bowie songs during breaks, and at some point, they played Changes. Today, this tune is a metaphor for the challenge to change how our industry operates (think Net Zero Carbon for example) and the difficulties, as well as potential we may have.

No Time to Die, by Billie Eilish

No – this is not about our industry. But it is the latest James Bond theme song and it finds its place on this list as a reference to this year’s group of Next Generation Leaders. They are a great group, and they met colleagues for the first time in Poznań at the UFI European Conference. Over the next months, they will work on a new staffing narrative for our industry – not as agents of ‘Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, but as agents of change for all of us. When they posed for a group picture, one of the shots turned out to express this in a wonderful way.

Don’t Look Back in Anger, by Oasis / I’m Still Standing, by Elton John

Ok, I have a weak spot for 1990s BritPop. Others prefer classic pop. So take your pick on this. The message is the same: with two pandemic years behind us all, and with most markets reopened, we are indeed still standing. And we need to, because the pace of recovery is fast. Really fast.

At the beginning of the year, our Barometer research forecast our industry globally to return this year to +70% of the revenues we had before the pandemic. This number could even be higher now, as the next Barometer might show. We are doing the survey for it in these weeks, so we will have new numbers over the summer – and for sure there will be another song we can add to this list for those.