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Where are we going?

UFI’s Kai Hattendorf surveys 2019 in exhibitions, and outlines the five key trends that will define the coming year.


Get ready to enter the ‘20s of this century! As we enter a new decade, the world seems to have become less stable and more disrupted in many aspects of life - in politics, tech, society and in business.

Every year, UFI tracks developments in the exhibitions and events industry worldwide - at our events, in conversation with our members and through many other channels. Here are our five trends that leaders in exhibitions and events should all be watching out for in 2020:


Peak globalisation

The growth of the global economy is slowing. The US-China trade conflict is leaving a mark on the economy of both countries, and on the rest of the world. In addition, political uncertainty is prevalent in many countries around the world, causing a general trend towards protectionism.

Some analysts are predicting that we are on the verge of reaching the peak of globalisation. With this comes the re-emergence of more regional trading patterns. The message for our globally connected industry is clear: balancing portfolios across regions and industries is essential to remain successful in the years ahead.


Serious about sustainability

The discussion around sustainable development will continue to heat up, with every industry challenged to prove their tangible contributions to a more sustainable way of doing business. In 2019, we already saw weather-related show cancellations and delays in venue projects, as temperatures became too hot for workers.


Keeping our customers’ trust 

There is an ever-increasing focus on customer-centricity, driven by the trend of recent years to create more unique visitor experiences at events. This focus takes many shapes and forms, but at the core is the need for our industry to remain a trusted partner by our customers.

A lot of this revolves around data and transparency at all customer touchpoints – from pricing policies to visitor numbers to ROI data. If indeed “data is the new oil,” then the data used to attract exhibitors and visitors, and the data generated for them, must be trustworthy and stand up to scrutiny.


Business model evolution

Trade shows have become a blend of formats, combining elements of the tradeshow floor with theatres for exhibitor presentations, conference stages, and experiential programmes. The evolution of the business model is progressing, and old “silos” of competencies between trade show and conference managers are disappearing.

A new, more diverse mix of industry leaders and hands-on teams is redefining the trade show experience. This change is also leading to an ongoing review of business models and pricing models. In addition to the traditional “space sold” approach, new revenue streams are emerging. 


Stay unique and diverse

More diversity in leadership for companies within our sector will drive the continued success of our industry as a whole. Our role as your association is to support you by providing a platform for industry collaboration. At UFI, we are proud to be the global trade association of the exhibition industry – and for you, too. 

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