UFI Congress 2015 in Milan: Dr. Peter Neven, AUMA Managing Director, Paul Woodward, former UFI Managing Director, Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director (from left)

Digital has arrived in our industry!

AUMA Interview with Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director of the Global Association of Exhibition Industry (UFI)

Paul Woodward, based in Paris, had been Managing Director of the UFI since 2010, until Kai Hattendorf took over the role at the UFI Congress in Milan at the beginning of November 2015. AUMA asked Kai Hattendorf about the UFI’s responsibilities and objectives over the coming years.

AUMA: Mr Hattendorf, following your experience in the practical trade fair industry at Messe Frankfurt, it interests us to know: what attracts you to working for an association such as UFI?

Kai Hattendorf: UFI plays a unique and unparalleled role for our industry. With around 680 members in 82 countries, we are the one truly global platform for the exhibition industry, serving its organisers, venue operators, national associations and service providers worldwide, and giving them a united voice on an international stage. It presents a fascinating challenge, being able to work at this interface to support an exciting industry to successfully face ever faster changes and challenges.

AUMA: What do you see as the tasks facing exhibition associations right now?

Kai Hattendorf: Every industry needs fixed points in the year, when its people meet and share knowledge and experience. This is just one of the recipes for success at exhibitions, and is of course just as true for the exhibition industry itself. For this reason, UFI holds a wide range of events during the course of the year – from the Global CEO Summit, to the first meeting of the year, to the annual conference, and in between, many meetings worldwide on specialist subjects that are important for the future of our sector. At our recent conference in Milan, we honoured UFI’s 90th birthday – and our role is probably more important now than ever: we offer networking platforms for the exhibition industry, provide the industry with key figures and trends on relevant subjects, and we really „bang the drum“ to make sure our sector is also well regarded among groups of political and corporate stakeholders.

AUMA: What challenges will the exhibition industry have to overcome in the future? What contribution can UFI make to this?

Kai Hattendorf: One of UFI’s key tasks is to track and explore the major developments and trends within and outside our sector. A most important trend of course continues to be globalisation. And while exhibition organisers – including in Germany – are still harvesting the fruits of internationalising their businesses, digitisation is emerging as the subject that will be increasingly dominant over the next few years. And the rate with which all this develops will continue to speed up.

AUMA: You promoted the digitisation of the exhibition industry at Messe Frankfurt. What did you learn from this experience that will be relevant for your future responsibilities at UFI?

Kai Hattendorf: Many conversations over the past few months have shown us in the association that this subject has now become an issue in our members‘ boardrooms – many UFI members are working on their digitisation strategies, or are already in the implementation phase. Digital has arrived in our industry!

But it’s also new for everyone, so there’s great interest in dialogue and sharing ideas. And so information, and opportunities to share ideas on digitisation are being built into all of our events – such as last summer in Cologne at the Summer University, or currently in Milan. It’s happening in February too, when we’re in Munich with the Global CEO Summit.

AUMA: How would you define the role of the German exhibition industry in the UFI?

Kai Hattendorf: Germany is traditionally a country with high membership, even if China has pulled ahead in terms of numbers. I’m happy to see that many of our German members are actively taking part in the association’s work, for example by leading committees, supporting our events or – as is the case with AUMA – bringing in their market research and sharing it with the sector. The fact that it will again be a German representative who takes up the UFI Presidency in 2017 – Andreas Gruchow of Deutsche Messe AG – also highlights the importance of the German exhibition market’s role on the global stage. There is also a very special appreciation of the market from which the President Comes.

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