Stop and go

Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI, writes at the start of 2022 about the state of the industry. 

We are a few weeks into 2022, and our industry is in very different states around the world. As the Omicron variant has caused record infection numbers, government and health authorities are struggling to find the right balance between keeping people safe and keeping life going at the same time.

It is a tough call to make. And it is a call that leaders everywhere have to make again and again. 

I am just returning from Las Vegas, where the Consumer Technology Association did go through with organising the Consumer Electronics Show (7-8 January 2022). It welcomed more than 40,000 visitors in-person to the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center (LVCC). That is 40,000 more than 2021, when they had to cancel the physical event, albeit of course the 2022 numbers were still down from the pre-pandemic numbers. Right afterwards (9-12 January), PCMA ran its annual conference in Las Vegas, Convening Leaders, connecting more than 2,000 event professionals face to face (or, more accurately, mask to mask). It was the same story there: After a digital-only event in 2021, their community was eager to re-connect face to face. Those who didn’t feel comfortable attending, given the Omicron wave, stayed away.

In UFI’s ‘5 trends to watch for 2022’, we write about this being a ‘stop and go’ time for show organisers, sometimes even for two show teams working closely with one another. One major German organiser had to call off international shows in Germany for January and February – while proceeding with a regional show that captures an audience from Germany and neighbouring countries.

One organiser in the US told me about the stress that their teams are facing, talking both to exhibitors that blame them for keeping a show on – and to those who blame them for cancelling or postponing a show.

We are an agile industry, and we rightly pride ourselves on the agility of our colleagues working in the industry. We focus a lot of attention and work to make our customers, our stakeholders, and the media understand how we are bouncing back as an industry, and to let them know how important our events are, especially for small and medium enterprises.

We have to also focus on our teams, and the daily ups and downs they go through. This column, therefore, is dedicated to all these colleagues!