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When the tradeshow industry meets academia

Nearly 80 participants from 13 countries gathered at the International Summer University for Trade Fair Management (ISU) to mark the biggest education event for UFI, the association of the world’s leading tradeshow organizers and exhibition center operators.

At the seventh ISU from June 24-26 in Cologne, the influence of digitization on the industry was at the center of attention: Under the title “Embracing the Digital – Exhibition Industry 4.0,” event and trade fair managers came together with academics, exhibition experts, service providers and visionary thinkers to learn and discuss how the digital is changing the industry and what is yet to come.

Participants ISU 2015
Participants ISU 2015

Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, opened the conference with a trend outlook explaining why digital is already to be considered a commodity just like electricity.

Professor Dr. Detlef Schoder of the University of Cologne agreed and identified detailed key trends evolving from this digital breakthrough. One of those is the explosion of the amount of digitized data. Schoder observed that the Big Data phenomenon comes with a move away from always trying to understand the deeper reasons behind how the world works toward being satisfied with simply learning what happened – instead of why.

“ISU is a great opportunity to gain vision and connect with leaders from the industry at an international level while sharing best practices around current hot topics of the exhibition industry,” said Clara Henriquez, business platforms director, Inexmoda (Colombia).

Day two accomplished the transfer of general learnings on digitization to trade fair related opportunities when Stefan Rummel of Messe Munich proved with his innovation platform that the digital era offers new business models and revenue streams.

Arun Madhok, CEO of the well-connected Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Center, showed how digital developments can have a great effect on the analogue world as well, displaying best practice insights of his digitally transformed venue.

When Simon Burton took the stage for his workshop on social media, ISU 2015 had already created quite a buzz on Facebook and Twitter (#ufiisu15). To the Exposure Communications CEO, there is no question about the great impact of social networks today and in the future: “If your social media activities do not work, you are doing it wrong.”

On the third and last day, speakers and attendees ventured a look ahead when trend researcher Tessa van Asselt described the addictive potential of digital technology and exemplified vividly what generations Y and Z expect from the exhibition industry.

John Welsh of UBM EMEA had opened the last day by presenting two 2020 scenarios for the exhibition business originating from the digital Tsunami that the industry has to cope with today.

ISU was organized by the Institute of Trade Fair Management at the University of Cologne in cooperation with UFI and was hosted by Koelnmesse. Since its first edition organized in 2006, nearly 380 participants from 42 countries participated in the ISU events.

For UFI, the exchange between academics and industry professionals is of high importance.

“We are very proud to have been involved in all seven editions of the ISU and look forward to the 2016 edition,” said Dr. Rowena Arzt, director of business development, UFI.

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