AUMA explains the education possibilities in the German exhibition industry

Germany is the world’s number one venue for holding international trade fairs. Of course qualified personnel play an important role in this leading position. Since 2001 more than 15,000 people have successfully passed the examination of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Germany for the official professional event manager. Marco Spinger, Director of Global Markets & IT Division of AUMA, gave a lecture on possibilities in education and further training in Germany at the annual China Expo Forum for International Cooperation (CEFCO) on 12 January 2018 in Qingdao. For this talk the basic information was delivered by Bettina Rosenbach, AUMA Manager for education and further training and Vice-Chairwoman in the UFI-Human Ressources Management Committee. We make his presentation and charts accessible here.*

Dear colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to once again participate in CEFCO. Again I am honored by having the chance to present a relevant topic for our industry. Being Director of AUMA’s Global Markets & IT Division, I often talk about activities of German exhibitors and organizers in foreign markets. Today I will talk about education in the German trade fair industry. To visually underline my expertise in education I let my beard grow, that makes me look like a professor, as my colleagues from the US association always have been teasing me.

SCHWEISSEN & SCHNEIDEN 2017 ©Messe Essen GmbH/Rainer SchimmAs you know, Germany is in a leading position when it comes to organizing international trade fairs. Every year, around 150 international trade fairs take place in Germany, attended by 180,000 exhibitors and around ten million visitors. One contribution to the success, which should not be underestimated, is well-trained and qualified personnel.

Event manager – all-in-one device suitable for every purpose

Event manager should be aware of the fact that they have to work when others party © KMKAs you see, in the trade show business we need an all-in-one device suitable for every purpose. The trade show manager needs to have a broad range of skills like diplomatic communication, interest in many industry sectors, technical know-how, foreign languages and many others. In Germany the curriculum for the official professional event manager was developed in 2001. Since then more than 15,000 people have successfully passed the examination of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. And the interest in this profession is unbroken. That sounds good, but there are challenges we are facing: A lot of young people have false ideas on the areas of work of an event manager. They see themselves drinking champagne with Lady Gaga after the concert or accompany Usher in a stretch limo from the airport to the show.

First of all: if someone wants to become an event manager, they should be aware of the fact that they have to work when others party. A lot of young people neglect the fact that there is a strong economic and financial component involved. They should be familiar with accounting, book-keeping, tax laws, copyright, and other legal aspects involved, etc. What we recommend: beginners should do an internship or take part in a trainee program in order to find out whether event management is the right work field.

Education in Germany

left: presenter Mao Daben, Shenzhen World Exhibition Center; middle: Daniel McKinnon, Chairperson of the Board of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE); right: Marco Spinger, AUMA

In Germany the school leaving qualification is the pre-condition for your professional career, whether you plan to study at a university or start a vocational training. The highest possible school leaving qualification is the so called “Abitur”, the university entrance diploma which allows you to take up studies at a university. In Germany we distinguish between studies at a university and vocational training (for example as event manager or as electrician or carpenter).

Vocational training means, you go to a vocational school (for theoretical classroom lessons) once or twice a week. The rest of the week you work as trainee in a company for instance at an event agency, promotion agency or a carpenter shop, garage, etc. You have a training contract with the company. After two or three years you have to pass an oral and written exam at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of your home town or region.

There are public educational institutions like schools, universities, universities of applied sciences, vocational colleges. There are also private institutions (universities, universities of applied sciences, vocational colleges) which offer education and trainings. They all charge tuition fees. Then you have the possibility for further training usually based on a profession you have learned. Further training can be done full time or as in-service training, meaning you go to work during the week and in the evenings and weekends you take part in your further trainings sessions.

Event manager – dual vocational education

Upcoming event manager also survey hall plansLike I said before this officially recognized (by the German government) occupation with the official job title “event manager” was established in the year 2001. AUMA was involved in developing the curriculum. Basically it is a commercial education focused on business and project management. In event management you have a lot to do with finances, budgeting, calculations, tax laws, insurances and legal aspects. All of them not so cool things. But a lot of young people do not see these aspects of the job when they start out.

Dual vocational education – contents of the curriculum

As mentioned before, we are still talking about the dual education at vocational school and company. Again, it is basically a commercial education. Nowadays, we no longer define learning targets but competences. Thus, the curriculum more or less gives instructions for actions that means: you best learn what you have done yourself.

The curriculum is divided into eleven learning areas like: buy and manage services and goods, or monitor business processes. Market research and tasks within the field of Human Resources are other areas. Learning areas seven and eight are more directly focused on event management. During the written and oral examination at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce the trainees have to prove that they are capable of qualified professional activities, including independent planning, organizing, and controlling all the processes of events.

Specialist for event engineering – dual vocational education

A look behind the scenes: Training for the education to become a specialist for event engeneering - more: for event engineering is also an official job title and officially recognized by the Federal Ministry of Education. It is also a dual education, meaning again that you have to attend theoretical training lessons at a vocational school once a week and the rest of the time you are working in a company you have your training contract with. Basically, the main task of specialists for event engineering is to technically prepare and accompany an event. Besides, they have to do a final technical inspection at the event location. Furthermore, they have to deal with all aspects of event technology: electricity, lighting, sound, technical equipment, stage settings, rigging, etc.

This job requires a comprehensive technical knowledge but also basic knowledge in legal and economic aspects. Legal aspects are regulations on fire protection and other questions of safety and security. Hall inspectors at German trade fair venues usually have undergone a training as specialist for event engineering. After completing a master degree they are the ones who are responsible for the technical safety of trade fairs and exhibitions. Before a trade fair starts they have to do a final inspection and give their okay that all the halls are in a technically safe condition. They have a huge responsibility, so they get paid quite well.

The bachelor professional in event management

Basis for this further training is a training as event manager and a certain time frame of professional experience. It can be done as a full-time training or as in-service training, meaning you do your normal work and in the evenings or at the weekends you do your training. During this further training the commercial focal points of the curriculum for the event manager (planning, organizing, realizing and evaluating of events) are handled more detailed in the following four areas of qualification:

  • economics and statistics
  • finance and accounting
  • legal and tax issues
  • business management / corporate governance

The future bachelor professional in event management should be able to apply this newly gained knowledge in the following fields of events: exhibitions, expositions, congresses, meetings, events in the area of sports, culture and arts, and marketing events.Various institutions and academies offer this training course which always ends with the official examination at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Altogether the training costs are between €3,000 and €4,000.

Examples for universities offering specialization in trade fair / event management

In Germany there are approximately 70 faculties of economics at universities and universities of applied sciences offering special lectures on exhibition-, congress- and event management – primarily within the frame of marketing courses.

Dual Vocational Education at Koelnmesse GmbH - more: Institute of Trade Fair Management at the University of Cologne offers the opportunity to specialize in exhibition management within the frame of its bachelor and master programs. Of course, they work closely together with one of its initiators Koelnmesse. Topics like exhibition management, marketing strategies or internationalization of exhibition organizers are addressed in the curriculum. Many of the instructors have a practical background, they often work in the exhibition industry – thus the students gain first-hand knowledge from the practice.

Many of these universities have close co-operations with exhibition organizers and with AUMA as a content provider. The University of Osnabrück, especially Professor Schwägermann, works together with the Second Shanghai Polytechnic University, SSPU. Thus we already have a scientific link between China and Germany.

Studying in Germany

Many exhibition and event managers start their career with economic studies at a university. Analytical and economic skills are as important for event managers as communication skills. Studying at a university means a more classical academic and scientific education. Keywords are: basic fundamental research, with a theoretical focus.

Studies at a university of applied sciences are more practice oriented. They often include internships at companies (practical semesters often with trade fair organizers), they are often closely related to the regional industry and focus more on the practical requirements of event management.

Academic degrees in the European Union have formally been synchronized (for example the bachelor and the master). This makes it easier for university graduates to work abroad. The German exhibition industry, which is very international, can benefit from this. Last but not least: a university degree often means a higher salary.

Fields of employment after the education

After completing the education with a specification on the exhibition industry there are also other fields of employment. These are event departments in larger companies, in the media, or in the tourism. This is of course possible vice versa. These industries are a source for the exhibition industry as well.

AUMA education activities / examples

Besides working on and developing curricula for the before mentioned kinds of education – what does AUMA as the German umbrella association for the trade fair industry contribute? Examples are: Since 2001 there is a two day training for vocational school teachers. Topics of this year’s training were: event catering, big events (German Protestant Church Congress), trends in the conference industry, copyright law in the event industry, guided tour through Mercedes World as event location.

Students at the German Trade Fair Library of AUMAIn addition, AUMA is also involved in scientific research projects. Latest research fields were a study on non-exhibiting companies as potential exhibitors and behavior and structure of trade visitors. Currently we are working on a study about emotional addressing of visitors by exhibitors at b-to-b shows. The results of the studies can also be used for the education of students. In general, AUMA has an advising and assisting role in the network of universities and students with relations to the trade fair Business.

*Download Charts: Education in the German Trade Fair Industry

Marco Spinger
Director of Global Markets & IT Division
AUMA – Association of the German Trade Fair Industry

Further information about the Institute of the German Trade Fair Industry can be found at:

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