Thanks to the Invisible Giant

Kai Hattendorf pays tribute to our industry friends.

It’s the season to go give thanks in many countries around the world. Be it on Omani National Day here in Muscat, where I am writing this column. Be it Thanksgiving in the US, or the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, or the German “Erntedankfeste”. So, let’s use this column for some personal thanks!

I want to give thanks today to the people who gave their ideas and thoughts so graciously at this year’s UFI Global Congress in Oman. Thank you to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoi for showing us the power that a story has that is told well and powerful. She helped us to understand how we can make the unseen visible, and she shared how she achieves that in her work, drawing a standing ovation from our global Congress community on site.

We often say we are an “invisible giant” of an industry, that we struggle to be recognised, that it is difficult for talent to actually find out about the opportunities in our sector. Listening to Sharmeen, I am more convinced than ever that we ‘just’ need to make sure we show who we are and that we need to tell our story.

So let’s give thanks to Monika Baro, Jo Kowalsky, Justine Rebel, Daniella Galante, Maria Victoria Piñeres and Jon Yahirun – our Next Generation Leaders of the year. You took the stage, and you owned it. You gave us the result of eight months of work – a new narrative, a new story, that we can tell when we talk to talent out in the world, and the reasons why they should choose exhibitions and events as their career. We are, you say, the ‘Community Building Industry’. There is so much in your work that will benefit the us all. As UFI, and based on many conversations we had alongside the Congress, we will drive this forward.

Let’s give thanks to so many other speakers who shared, like Sandy Angus, chairing our Exhibition Industry Board Meeting session.

A big and heartful thank you to Said Al Shanfari and his whole team at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre – a perfect team and a most gracious host, opening their doors to our global community and showcasing Oman at its very best.

A special thanks to our leaders at UFI – especially Monica Lee-Müller, who guided us through the year from Hong Kong, before being able to travel again in the final months of her presidency. To Anbu Varathan, who served selflessly in the leadership for so long, and to Mary Larkin. Last not least, thank you and welcome to Michael Duck, as he takes up the UFI presidency.

Thank you to everyone in the UFI team around the world – in Paris and Hong Kong, Dubai and Bogota, Brussels and New York, Buenos Aires, London, and elsewhere. A team as global and diverse as our industry, and a powerful group of people working for our industry.

Thank you to our families – this industry takes commitments, and time, and far too often it keeps us away from the people we love for too long.

Let’s be grateful for the community we are, for the industry we are, for the stories we write, and for the future we build for everyone we work for and with.