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UFI FOCUSwww.exhibition-world.net Issue 8 | 201117he forecast is for stormy weather. With wobbly stock markets and currencies gyrating, the global economy is once again looking at best very uncertain. There is clearly concern around the exhibition industry as to how this will spill over into our business.For many companies in the healthier economies, 2010 was a pretty good year and the fi rst half of 2011 was reported as strong by many leading exhibition businesses. Recent industry conferences would suggest, however, that there is a good deal of nervousness about the prospects for 2012.The optimistic consensus is that the industry can continue to outperform (at least by a little) the economy for a while. That was CEIR's view at its recent predict conference in New York. It was also the mood of a recent UK conference that banned economists from the platform for fear of depressing the delegates too much. But, if economies are barely growing, outperforming them is not very exciting news.UFI's Global Exhibition Barometer research showed revenue, profi t and confi dence indicators, all of which had been steadily rising through 2010 and the fi rst half of 2011, fl attening and in some cases, dipping. Confi dence that the effects of the recession were over took a signifi cant fall in the US for the poll, taken in June. Europe, not yet battered by the summer currency and banking crisis, had not seen it coming. It would be hard to imagine that the Europeans will feel the same when we take the industry's temperature again in December.I am taking two lessons from all this: fi rstly, this is an important time for the industry to come together under the umbrella of its associations to present a united face to the world. As usual, we can fi nd new business opportunities from each other, share experience and best practice and enjoy the networking. In our recent UFI membership survey BENEATH THE LOOMING CLOUDSWITH GLOBAL ECONOMISTS ONCE AGAIN HOLDING THEIR BREATH, UFI MD PAUL WOODWARD URGES SOLIDARITY IN THE FACE OF A WORSENING FINANCIAL CLIMATE(of which more news in Valencia), this is what most of our members told us they were looking to UFI for. That's all well and good but there is more that we can and should be doing, and that brings me onto my second point: promotion. It's a tricky area onto which we have to focus the inevitably limited resources of any association. But it is clear to us that more must be done. The world's business community simply does not recognise that exhibitions and other face to face events represent the most powerful and effective marketing tool available to them. One of the topics that will be discussed at the Valencia meeting of UFI's Associations Committee (now with 52 national and international association members) is how we can pool efforts to take our message out to the world's marketers more effectively. If we can do our bit more effectively to convince business that when times are tough, exhibitions and events are the place to focus their marketing dollars, then there will have been a silver lining in those storm clouds for our industry. THERE IS MORE THAT WE CAN AND SHOULD BE DOING

VISIONARYIssue 8 | 2011 www.exhibition-world.nethen you look back at forecasts of the way businesses were supposed to be operating today, you'll fi nd many widely-accepted predictions that simply never came to be. The paperless offi ce. The people-less city - a world of people sitting alone in living rooms, connected to each other by a screen. But what about the future for exhibitions? Does emerging technology, improved connectivity and access to information lessen the need for getting out to trade events? Dr Michio Kaku, author of New York Times bestsellers Physics of the Future and Sci-Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, (the latter a 12-part series on the Science channel in the US), says basic human instinct is the reason exhibitions aren't going to disappear anytime soon."These predictions never came true because we're social animals," he tells EW. "We like to bond with other people. You want to see who or what is up and coming - you want to see who's lying to you. You can't do that on a computer screen."Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the University of New York, is an advocate of not-so-far-from-now technologies such as the contact lens through which we can access the Internet, or interactive digital 'wallpaper' that will replace desktop PCs.But can this technology, this scope of access, ever diminish the need for live events? "The world is headed towards something called perfect capitalism," he explains. "There is so much knowledge out there. When you go to an exhibition, or a supermarket, you already know exactly what something really costs. Today, supply and demand are imperfect. In the future, it will be perfect: you will know exactly what things really cost, how much profi t the manufacturer is getting and who offers the cheapest product. That's what we're headed for, a fl ood of knowledge and perfect capitalism."But despite this fl ood of information and the fact we needn't leave our rooms to know about every product, Kaku says organisers needn't panic. Technology, he argues, can do little to diminish human instinct. "Some people think exhibitions will disappear. That we'll all teleconference instead, so there's no necessity to go to any trade show. Well that's wrong. Because we are human beings. Our personality hasn't changed in a hundred thousand years. In fact, if you could meet somebody from that long ago who was able to speak your language, they'd immediately understand your desires and wants. You see, we haven't changed at all."We want to have meetings because we want to size people up. You want to see who interacts, who is the creative engine. You want to know who comes up with good ideas rather than goofy ideas."This is the paradox," he continues. "We will have more information than ever before. But when we look at a press release, our fi rst reaction is scepticism. Because you know a lot of it is written by a professional copy editor who gets paid to hype up inferior products. You want to see it, touch it, kick it, test drive it. You want to have direct contact with people and products."That is why we will always have exhibitions, Kaku concludes. "We want bonding. We want the inside story, the gossip, the scuttlebutt, the scandal. All the stuff you're not going to get in press releases."Dr Kaku is the keynote speaker at this year's Expo! Expo! in Las Vegas. PERFECT CAPITALISM ANTONY REEVE-CROOK CAUGHT UP WITH THEORETICAL PHYSICIST AND CO-FOUNDER OF STRING FIELD THEORY, DR MICHIO KAKU, AND ASKED HIM WHERE EXHIBITIONS SIT IN THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE