Interview| Exhibition World18| January 2011| Last summer United Business Media (UBM)merged two of its divisions, UBM Live and UBMInternational Media, under a single banner. Theentity it created, retaining the title UBM Live, isresponsible for 77 live exhibitions and conferences in 13countries. And that's before you factor in its virtualevents, a sector in which UBM is rapidly emerging as thedominant industry player.The new, all-accommodating instance of UBM Liveoperates under the direction of Simon Foster, CEO ofthe former UBM International Media. Here, he speaksabout the opportunities created by the unified UBMLive and how he believes it will achieve its goals for2011 and beyond.What are the key challenges that face UBM Live inthe next 12 months?Like all other organisers, our key challenge for the next12 months is to manage our business carefully throughthe process of emerging from the recessionaryconditions of the last two years. Key to achieving this successfully will be to identifywhich of our products are returning to their pre-recession strengths and which need help to get backup there. Thankfully we seem to have a lot more of theformer than the latter! But the "bounce back" ratevaries across our markets and the geographies weoperate in. If you listen to the economists, a double-dip recession remains a possibility so we're having tomake finely balanced judgements about whether, howand where to invest for growth, versus just increasingour costs to ensure our products make it through anyrenewed downturn.As well as making absolutely sure we deliver essentialevents to our markets, we also have the challenge ofgrowing our portfolio with new brands and in newgeographies. I'm expecting us to use the next 12months to build viable operational platforms ingeographies like Africa, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia.Finally - and our top priority - is to make sure weintegrate the Canon business* into the UBM globalstructure and operation smoothly and successfully. * UBM acquired US-based advanced manufacturingtradeshow organiser Canon Communications LLC for$287m in October 2010.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NETKeeping UBM LiveEWcatches up with UBM Live CEO Simon Fosteras he discusses spreading risk,the value of a harmonious joint venture, and making sure its recent acquisition ofCanon Communications fires true.Simon Foster at a glanceFoster joined UBM in 1999 as head of marketing forthe fire, safety and security business, including securityevent IFSEC. In 2003 he moved to the Netherlands tohead the global food and pharma ingredients portfolioswhich include Food Ingredients Europe and CPhI. He wasappointed chief executive of UBM Live in 2010 followingits merger with UBM International Media.
THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| January 2011 |19Exhibition World | InterviewWhat key objectives have you set yourself and why?My key objective is to meet the challenges above. Butthe long-term objective, and my ambition for UBM Live,is to build a worldwide network of the industry's bestevents businesses. I want UBM Live to be a centre ofexcellence for executing events in any market, in anygeography. The key word for me is 'best', rather than 'biggest' -although in a perfect world we'll achieve both. Have you joined any international associationsrecently? If so, why?We haven't joined any new international associationsrecently. UBM has been an active member of UFI formany years and as we grow the business in parts ofthe world that are new to us, we are looking to engageeven more with UFI and its partner organisations. Weare active in the Association of Event Organiser[AEO] in the UK and Society of Independent ShowOrganisers [SISO] in the USA as well as in similarorganisations in other territories. Personally I've foundit worthwhile to invest time in becoming involved withour industry's professional organisations. It's beenhugely beneficial to meet and hear from myinternational peers and to see how our professionalworld is changing. I hope that through ourinvolvement with industry associations I - and UBM -can give something back to the industry.Have you formed any joint ventures or otherpartnerships recently?UBM has created many joint ventures over recent yearsand they have played a key part in the development ofUBM's events business. UBM Asia, run by my goodfriend Jime Essink, has been particularly successful inbuilding joint ventures in China where we are now thecountry's largest non-domestic event organiser.We have done a number of deals recently, notably inBrazil, where we have chosen to acquire a majoritystake in an event business and work in partnership withthe seller, rather than acquiring the whole business.We've developed a successful approach to jointventures which brings the seller and their business intoUBM. The seller contributes their local industryknowledge and expertise and in return gains access toUBM's worldwide operational infrastructure andfinancial muscle, allowing us to work together to drivegrowth for the business. Our ability to structure andmanage joint ventures successfully - often working withowner-operators and family businesses - is now a clearUSP for UBM. I'm proud that the success of our 'local'approach means sellers in the industry view us as agood partner. Many of our sellers continue to work withus for many years and bring us new products to workon together.We've also successfully developed partnerships andjoint ventures with industry associations. Associationsare a powerful ally and partner for us in many of ourmarkets, particularly in China. For me, working withassociations dramatically improves our ability todeliver successful shows because of the immediateintimate access to 'local' industry expertise thosepartnerships provide.UBM, beyond all other organisers, is backing virtualevents despite the fact that they do not currentlyadd to the bottom line. What is the reason for UBM'ssupport for a medium that is seen by manyorganisers as, to quote William Reed's AndrewReed, "little more than an online directory". Firstly, it's not true that virtual events do not add to thebottom line - UBM's virtual events certainly do. Secondly, at UBM we are discovering more and moreways in which the virtual, online environment is actuallycomplementary to the in-person, live environment - it'sjust not true that the virtual will cannibalise the physicaloffering. We've shown with hybrid events like BlackHat(for the professional IT security industry) the virtual andin-person environments can operate simultaneouslyand in tandem - and can be hugely successful for bothattendees and sponsors, as well as being successfulfinancially."Our ability to structure andmanage joint ventures successfully -often working with owner-operatorsand family businesses - is now a clear USP for UBM."