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Issue 8 | 2011 www.56exhibition-world.netThe function of the trade show and exhibition is to be a platform for communication within the industry and the person-to-person interaction not facilitated through social media or networks. The aspect of a campfire has gained importance.You have the trade function, the information function and the communication function. If you take these as the core functions of an exhibition you can theoretically migrate each and every part of that real-world experience to a digital equivalent. The list of exhibitors in the digital world will be on a smartphone app or website. You have it at your fingertips because you don't have to carry five kilograms around the show. All our shows have apps. At Musikmesse this year an eighth of visitors used our smartphone app.If each of the trade show functions you just listed can be replaced digitally, where does that leave exhibitions?It leaves the exhibition in a perfect spot. Do you feel confident in a digital-only environment? With all the information having to be written in Facebook would you get that same level of exchange? We are human beings not machines and we are deeply social. We can have 100 friends on Facebook but the people we consider interesting are those we want to meet in person. When it's important you want to experience a person in more ways than just pictures and text. All these digital tools are wonderful but they don't replace it. Our industry can and will win so much because we can build a better marketplace for our customers and this will strengthen the format of trade shows.What negative effects might we see, and how can organisers compensate?What we will probably see is a diminishing demand for space but an increasing demand in other currencies. We might see this by about 2020.Among these other currencies will be the quality of connections you can build using digital match-making, for instance. We have done our first little match-making platform for a show called Texprocess. With the group we targeted it was received well, but it's very early days because if you are a seller you have to put in lots of specific data and if you want to look you have to be precise. It will take years until something like this is in full blossom, as we individually understand better how to provide data and search for data. As this progresses, businesses will change and learn and probably five years from now match-making will be an essential tool.That's one way digital can do better than analogue. The people we contact online we can then meet on the trade show floor to talk. It will be like your online calendar that gives you a map to the grounds that we are starting to take for granted.We are one of the second-oldest business models in the world. What amazes me is the ability to change shape from a marketplace in the middle ages going through the industrial revolution phase to the great cultural exhibitions. Fifty years ago we saw specialisation, 25 years ago we saw globalisation and by 2020 we will see digitisation. Are we leading a digital revolution? No, but if our customers change, we change. What really changes the order of things in our industry is the ability to adapt to the change as needed. In Germany those companies that have not gone global with their show brands are having a hard time. We will have to some degree build digital venues and presences online. Next to the physical venue we will see more and more virtual venues.Which digital trends are fads, and which do you think will be more persistent?Most of them are fads but no one will be able to tell you which ones. Remember the hype around Second Life. Ask yourself: Would you buy something from a vendor that looks like a butterfly?I don't have a specific vision of the future yet. We are working on a strategy and I believe we will have digital enhancements on hugely successful traditional shows. I don't foresee empty venues grown over with green grass. As trade show companies we need to serve the needs of trade. Remember: Trade, information, communication. For example, in between two Musikmesse fairs there is a Facebook group where thousands of people stay in touch over the years, under the brand of the show.Where we can serve these functions best is on the trade show once a year being the campfire and digital offers and services in between these meetings. Case study: New media atMesse FrankfurtAmong the vital tools at every trade show are the exhibiting brochure, the personal diary and the event listings. Messe Frankfurt still offers these in the traditional formats on printed paper. Starting in 2010, however, it has also begun rolling out individual smartphone apps for its shows for iPhone and Android platforms. Connected to its databases, the apps provide up-to-the-minute information on exhibitors and events, fulfilling the same needs as traditional media.Beyond these, the apps offer additional value: Providing current press releases and Twitter feeds from and about the shows, and also a locating service that visitors can check into and then be visible on the interactive floor map for their business partners if they choose to - making it easier to find relevant contacts during the show. These apps are built on a joint platform so new features introduced for one show immediately become available for the following events as well. Demand is growing quickly. At this year's Musikmesse, every eighth visitor downloaded the app. SHOW SUPPORT

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