The fifth annual Global Exhibitions Day doesn’t look like the others. Usually at this time of year event profs would be celebrating the end of another busy Spring period and hearing almost weekly news of the latest merger or acquisition as the industry continued to go from strength to strength.
The UK exhibitions community would have cheered on friends and colleagues at the Exhibition News Awards and would even now be looking forward to another night (well, day) of celebration at the AEO Awards and a packed summer of industry networking events.
We’d be celebrating GED2020 by sharing photos from the last few months of busy aisles, raucous exhibitor drinks, colleagues in high vis and main stage moments.
Instead, in this live events purgatory we find ourselves in, UFI is asking exhibition professionals to share images and stories of past shows which demonstrate their value to the world. Whether it’s the signing of a big contract, the making of a valuable new connection or the bringing together of a community, this Global Exhibitions Day is all about showing what exhibitions can do.
This day has always been about promoting the value of exhibitions. It’s always been about demonstrating the value of live events to communities, industries, cities and economies. But this is the first GED which has seen the seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory of the exhibition industry falter, due to circumstances far out of its control. This is the first Global Exhibitions Day when the industry is fighting for its very survival.
And, in this unprecedented time, as we pivot to the new normal, how can we make sure we don’t waste this opportunity to come together?
Ever since it launched in 2016, Global Exhibitions Day has been about demonstrating the size and scale of the exhibition industry. Then-UFI President Sergey Alexeev described it as “a day where the exhibition industry celebrates itself and sends a joint message about the importance and the strength of the industry not just in one country but worldwide.”
One of the most important things that the industry can do at this moment in time is demonstrate how indispensable it is to businesses and economies. Trade shows shouldn’t just be a luxury for thriving brands, they should be vital for any size and type of business. Equally, hosting exhibitions shouldn’t be a ‘take it or leave it’ choice for a city – these events should be fought over and valued.
As an industry we know our worth, and we’re lucky to have associations that have provided hard data to back that up. Now more than ever it’s vital to communicate that value to our customers and government bodies.
International communication is more important than ever
Different countries around the world have been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic on different time frames, and in the UK we have a chance to learn from our colleagues in countries such China, South Korea and Germany as they begin to restart their events economies.
None of us can know for sure what the first post-COVID-19 trade shows will look like, whether it’s a slow introduction of outside events, extensive social distancing, limited numbers of attendees or any number of possibilities. What we can do is communicate with international event professionals and learn from their challenges and successes.
We have the opportunity to present an informed blueprint of the post-COVID-19 event and can theoretically anticipate many of the challenges if we all come together as a global community with a single goal.
Global Exhibitions Day 2020 will be a chance to see the length, breadth and diversity of the global exhibitions industry and a reminder of the potential of its reach and influence. As events reopen with local and national audiences and a greater awareness of the environmental implications of globalisation, we may even see larger-scale changes to the foundations of our events.
Throughout the turmoil to come in the weeks and months ahead, it’s important to keep in mind the connectedness that we’ll see over the course of today. As a global industry we can be even greater than the sum of our parts and together we can emerge from lockdown stronger and more resilient than ever.