A Preview of UFI’s 79th Congress


Its 79th UFI Congress takes place next week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I will be attending and blogging for EXPOweb.com. In advance of the conference though, I had a chance to catch up with its managing director, Paul Woodward, to discuss the record-breaking event, as well as the global tradeshow industry. 

Stephanie Selesnick: You are moderating a session entitled "When Can We Consider Growth to Be Sustainable?" With so many UFI members launching shows in developing countries, what are the two best initiatives you’ve seen used to help promote sustained development in emerging markets?

Paul Woodward: It would be hard to single out two specific initiatives, as there is such a wide range around the world. We see organizers and venues doing really interesting things: recycling used carpets into housing projects for very underprivileged families in South Africa; using their event organizing abilities and resources to stage shows for NGOs, bringing together a range of interested communities in several countries; encouraging staff to get involved in community projects in some of the emerging markets in which they’re working. 

There’s a long list and I’m looking forward to hearing more ideas along these lines during the panel session in Abu Dhabi.

Selesnick: UFI is known for some very thorough research reports and initiatives, some of which will be discussed in depth at the conference. Which will be of most interest to the U.S. exhibition industry?

Woodward: Our research has focused over the past few years on putting into place a good, solid foundation of basic statistics on the size of and key trends in the global industry. This is a huge project, but we are pretty confident that we can now answer properly the questions we used to have to guess at regarding the size and shape of the exhibitions world. 

We also worked with Prof. Jörg Beier over a couple of years to produce the Delphi Study, published at the beginning of this year, which pooled ideas from over 200 experts around the world to put some substance behind the view of longer-term trends in exhibitions. 

Finally, our committees are doing some interesting work themselves. For example, the marketing committee did a very interesting survey last year on the use of matchmaking within exhibition organizers, which I think was very insightful. Most of the research is available to members and non-members on the UFI website, www.ufi.org.

Selesnick: Lastly, through UFI’s relationship with SISO and IAEE, it appears that the 79th UFI Congress has more organizers from the U.S. than in past years. What would you say to encourage U.S. organizers to come to UFI events, like the European Open Seminar in Sweden next June or next year’s congress?

Yes, we are very pleased with the stronger links we’ve been able to build up over the past few years with the U.S. industry. The UFI-SISO alliance has generated a lot of interest and, as you rightly point out, increased attendance from the U.S. at our last few UFI Congresses, not to mention UFI members attending the SISO events. We are also working on a number of ideas of how we can deepen the working relationship between UFI and IAEE in ways that can really benefit members of both organizations. 

For U.S.-based organizers wondering about UFI events, I would say that, if you are interested in expanding your international business, these meetings are simply the best place to come to see the global industry at work. The main reason that people are UFI members is to increase their international business. That’s why they come to the events as well. 

At our annual members-only congress, we normally have around 50 or 60 countries represented, and I can offer a pretty firm guarantee that, if you are interested in doing business in a new market, I can find you someone from that country or, at the very least, someone with a lot of experience doing business there who can point you in the right direction.


Stephanie S. Selesnick, CEM, is President of International Trade Information, Inc.,and a longtime global exhibition industry specialists helping U.S. show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and clone shows overseas. You can follow her on Twitter at @stephselesnick.

Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter @stephselesnick.  ... View all articles by Stephanie Selesnick →