Lessons from a Pandemic

04.04.2023 | IFES Press Releases, News | 0 comments

The IFES Board – Evolving to embrace a new future

We are seeing meaningful recovery within the Exhibition and Events Industry, and we are starting a new year with enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future.

Our IFES Board reflects on what the experiences of the past couple of years have taught us and how we can carry those lessons forward to inform our decision making, strengthen our collective vision and reassess what is important in our business trajectory.

Philippe Bielle – President

As 2023 dawns, we need to ask ourselves whether we are making the “best” choices or the “right” choices to take us forward.

While a successful business is all about making money and making what we believe to be the “best” choices will help us earn even more money; is that really as important as we think? The almost complete closure of our industry over the past two years made us look at things a little differently. We need to dig deeper to see whether the “best” choices are necessarily the “right” choices for us. While we certainly need to be able to make money, it is even more important to be able to make money for as long as possible. It is only by making the “right” choices that we can achieve this objective.

For me personally, the two most critical “right” choices are clear.

The first choice is to increase our commitment to sustainable development. It may cost us a bit more in the short term, but it is essential to drive change if we intend to be in business in 10 years’ time. Money is a necessity, but it is not what we should be focusing on today.

The second prerequisite is to understand that our businesses are nothing without people. Teamwork affords us the greatest achievements and love and emotion provide enough leverage to move mountains. Doing things with a purpose makes sense; this is the key driver for younger talents who are the future generation of our industry.

IFES supports members in growing their businesses by working together, all around the world. Rest assured that IFES will also support members to drive the changes, to inspire, and to train, for the betterment of our industry overall.

Justin Hawes – Past President

This past year has been a rollercoaster ride. At the beginning of 2022 we were still very much in the Covid-19 pandemic, and large gatherings and events were not taking place. But gradually as the pandemic eased, exhibitions and conferences started happening again, often at short notice and with very tight lead times. People wanted to make up for lost time and the big demand placed on venues, resulted in short build-up and break-down times. This pressure was exacerbated by the loss of key staff during the pandemic.

I do believe that 2023 will be an easier year for our industry, with advance planning of events, some staff returning to our industry, and new staff gaining greater experience.

The last couple of years have shown us the importance of face-to-face interaction and the desire for in-person events, exhibitions and conferences is stronger than ever. However, I think that in-person events will be complemented by an online element, resulting in more hybrid events. With the growing focus on the impact of climate change, sustainability is important and hybrid events make sense.

When I look back on the last couple of years, I am amazed at how we have endured. Our industry is filled with problem-solving, creative, resilient types and we will put these attributes to good use in 2023 as we recover and grow.

Eric Grossman – Vice President, Finance/Treasurer

One of the biggest positive takeaways for us arises from the challenges we faced especially in the aftermath of the pandemic: the importance of flexibility. The unpredictable situation demanded last minute solutions, preparing us not only to be more flexible but also to create a more dynamic working environment around ourselves.

As each and every one of us was forced to familiarise themselves with new communication tools, everyone and everything became more connected, more reachable. Long-distance meetings and working from home became the norm.

But many people have had enough of home office, virtual meetings, and on-screen connections. The effect of REAL human contact is unmatched, which is why our industry, even after a global pandemic, will not be replaced by, or moved into the virtual space. It will rather find a coexistence with the latter. The rules may have slightly changed, and the cards reshuffled, but at its core, the game remains the same.

Finances have been a huge issue during the pandemic, for our association and especially for most of our members and our entire industry. While some countries offered good “rescue packages,” others could unfortunately not provide any help at all. Nobody was prepared for this devastating situation.

Luckily, things have changed in the last couple of months and look brighter although the prices are exploding in most fields.

With the new Executive Board, our Management Office, and our members, I aim to generate a solid financial base for our association and create clear benefits for our members with new products and services. Alone we cannot make the difference. Let’s work on it!

Peter Theodorides – Vice President, Membership

“Change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle, and best at the end” – Robin Sharma.

How can one best summarise the post-pandemic exhibition industry recovery? Survival of the fittest, exhausting times, change management, or simply, life goes on!

What we all have experienced and endured over the last 14 months in our sector, can only be truly appreciated by those within our industry. The struggles, endless nights, ongoing changes and coping with hard realities, made us aware that we always need to be able to diversify and remain flexible. But most importantly, we need to keep our heads up, make plans, get back on our feet and continue to do what we do best with a passion for exhibitions and events!

There is no doubt that 2022 proved to all of us that we are back on track and ready to tackle an even more dynamic 2023. The new IFES Board is committed to meeting new challenges, and is united, stronger, and determined to invest the time and effort to realise our goals.

I am confident that together with your active participation in our events, our new “strategic partners” to open new possibilities and markets for you, and the new members expected in the upcoming years; IFES will continue to flourish as the only truly worldwide networking association for many more years…

Joerg Zeissig – Vice President, Strategy

Recent experiences and corresponding challenges have shown us once again that it is our purpose to work and grow together as an industry. Using a collaborative network effectively to cope with the hurdles and challenges of the coming years makes more than just sense. Topics such as Community building, digitization and sustainability are the drivers of the next generation – our future clients. Precisely for this reason, it is essential to let them have their say and to determine the path together with us “experienced” ones.

The industry needs to drive a change of perspective, also by heart. As Co-Chair of our Sustainability Committee and Co-Chair of the Net-Zero Carbon Events Initiative, I would like to – once more – highlight the topic of sustainability as the license to operate our future business in the events industry, no matter where we stand in the value chain. Sustainable solutions are not add-ons to our usual course of actions, they will become standard, and economically the key to succeed. We need to step forward. Our first impulse needs to be the urge to establish concepts & strategies, events & exhibitions with all corresponding partners right from the beginning. I would like to invite you to start small and start now.

Marcela Medrano – Board Member, Education

Here we are again at the gates of a new year, re-evaluating and rethinking our goals and objectives. After the last few years, in which the world situation forced us to look very deeply into our companies and our lives, and also put us on an equal footing with the rest of the world; I can confirm that education and self-initiative are the most solid bases we have to find the creativity and the strategy to make our companies grow under any circumstances.
Within the board we will continue our work to give your organisation access to quality information and training in the field of tradeshow & event marketing by providing opportunities for continuing education.
Updating, Specialisation and Improvement I will propose content throughout the year in our events and activities to complete, expand and develop the level of knowledge and experience, adding value to IFES membership within the IFES family.

Sarah ChewBoard Member, Sustainability

The strong rebound of exhibitions and events globally reaffirms the importance and resilience of our industry. With the re-opening of borders and ensuing pent-up demand for marketing activities and business travel, the industry is riding the momentum to fully recover in two to three years. Manpower shortages exacerbated by the pandemic presented a great challenge for our industry, alongside compressed planning, and delivery timelines. While the industry went through unprecedented challenges, the IFES community demonstrated unity and strength, rendering support for each other, steadfastly responding to occasional calls for assistance.

How often have we heard now that sustainability will be our licence to operate. As designers and producers of the events industry, we have to rethink, with sustainability as a key component of our design strategies. Collectively as an industry, we are able to move the needle. We must evolve and we have to embark on this journey, if we have not, it is now!

Andrew Harrison – Board Member, Associations

Don’t trust humans or politicians when you see their mouths move 😊. Specifically, don’t trust humans when it comes to predictions. Why? Humans are fundamentally flawed when it comes to predictions. We’re way too emotional, affected by bias, needs, and wants, and discard facts/history too readily. But that doesn’t sound like much fun.

I dread being asked for my predictions for the industry, the future, the economy, tech, hybrid, work from home etc. etc. and in my role as an association director I get asked a fair amount. The best prediction for me is trust in your behaviour, it’s predictable, mostly. No prediction in the world can affect you more than how you act as a person or business. The world, now more than ever, is full of the eponymous Black Swan events. It’s becoming harder not to utter Que Sera, Sera when we turn on the news.

So, trust in your community, your IFES community, continue to pull tight and in the same direction, seek those that hold your values. Seek collaboration and not competition. The next 12 months are going to be determined in the main by decisions you make, not others, but don’t think you have to do this alone.

Martijn BesarisBoard Member, Talent Team

What a year; from a lockdown at the beginning of the year straight into a continuous sprint to the end of the year! I am so happy that shows are running again, that we can build booths and can look and plan months and years ahead instead of only for tomorrow.

The reopening of our industry has also brought new issues, including shortages of labour and materials. Attracting and retaining young talent has become challenging across all levels of business but especially amongst the men and women working in the field and in the workshop. Together with the IFES Talent Team I am working on programs and activities to address this, to create awareness and be the voice of the younger generation.

But we can’t do this alone and we invite you all to support us in investing in a bright and hopeful future.




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