Feature | Exhibition World18| Nov/Dec 2010| November's UFI Congress, held at the MarinaBay Sands resort in Singapore, sees theassociation welcome a popular face to the roleof president.Eric Everard, who takes over from ManfredWutzlhofer, is the executive chairman of Belgium-basedArtexis, the company behind low-cost exhibition specialistEasyfairs. Here Everard speaks to EWabout his views onthe industry, UFI and Easyfairs and hints at what's in storefor the year ahead.How did you get into the international exhibitionbusiness?In 2011, I will celebrate a quarter century in the exhibitionindustry. When I was 22 years old I launched the EuropeanStudent Fair. Four years later I sold it to Reed Exhibitionsand subsequently became the managing director for ReedBelgium, Reed Benelux and then, in 1995, for Reed Midemin Paris.You cannot learn to be an entrepreneur but you can learnto be a better exhibition organiser. I owe a lot to my yearsat Reed. It really is one of the best universities for theindustry - a few years at Reed gives you a highlyspecialised and yet broad-ranging education, theequivalent of a "Masters in Exhibitions Administration" Isuppose. You can learn about all aspects of the business.Plus, you make a lot of great contacts. Reed is to the exhibition industry what Procter andGamble is to consumer goods - it's an informal club thatstays with you throughout your professional life. In addition,I am fortunate to have been born a Belgian national who ishalf German. I regard Europe as my country and haveTHE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NETClimbingmountains with UFIUFI welcomes a new president this month. Eric Everard, executive chairman at Belgium-basedEasyfairs and Artexis, speaks to EWabout the association and the future of exhibitions.
Exhibition World | Interview19never had any difficulties doing cross-border business. What are the key challenges that face UFI in thenext 12 months?To demonstrate the value of exhibitions and tradeshows asa communications instrument in a changing world. We liketo say that marketing doesn't get any more direct than atradeshow. There is simply no substitute for face-to-facecontact. And this is borne out by research that shows thatexhibitors believe exhibitions are the most effective form ofcommunication in terms of ROI. Surveys also show thateven non-exhibitors recognise the value of exhibitions. Soour challenge is to get them actually exhibiting. We really want all of our members know to that UFI isfocused on adding value to their businesses. We don't existsimply due to the fact we are 85 years old or because wehave a great culture and heritage. We exist to make ourmembers' businesses more successful. This is the valuewe bring to them. I would like to be able to communicate this more clearlyin the future. Global communications with limited resourcesis a big challenge and all the more so in a multimediaenvironment. While some UFI members want to hear fromus on Twitter, LinkedIn and via their iPads, others arefinding it hard to say goodbye to printed directories andglossy brochures. UFI has also played a leading role in internationalisingthe exhibition industry and I see this work continuing. Formany years the industry was dominated by WesternEurope and North America, but now China is a majorplayer, as are business hubs such as Dubai andSingapore. UFI can help foster good communication,cooperation and the sharing of best practice. The greatthing about new members from developing countries is thatthey tend to be active and enthusiastic. UFI's challenge isto tap into that enthusiasm.Finally, we have to look at the business models ofexhibitions and apply some fresh thinking to move with thetimes. Marketing budgets are tight so the old adage "timeis money" has never been truer. Therefore we have tocreate an even better value proposition and communicateit very effectively. At the same time we have to adapt our business modelto be more sustainable. We should recognise andcelebrate any initiatives among UFI members to beexemplars of sustainable profitability in the exhibitionindustry - because this is now a business basic, not a "niceto have" or a piece of window dressing. Our onlinesustainable development knowledge exchange availableto our members is just the first of many initiatives we havein mind.Will you be focusing on the internationalassociations?Absolutely. UFI really values the relationship we havedeveloped with the 38 UFI member national andinternational exhibition industry associations. UFI is truly a global umbrella for the exhibition community.We bring together these associations on a regular basisand work closely with them as multipliers for ourprogrammes, services and research projects. This is a win-win situation for us all. If we want to maximise our resourcesand avoid duplicative effort, this is certainly the best way forus all to go."We bring together associations on a regular basis and work closely withthem as multipliers for ourprogrammes, services and researchprojects. This is a win-win situationfor us all." THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| Nov/Dec 2010|Eric Everard