Exhibition World Issue 6 | Page 28


Meeting UFI ’ s new Mr president

Paul Colston gets new UFI president and CEO of dmg events Geoff Dickinson ’ s views on the state of the industry and the association ’ s strategy going into 2024
How do you assess the recent UFI Congress in Las Vegas , its highlights and the key questions and challenges that arose from the sessions and debates ? It has been an UFI Congress for the history books . With around 500 colleagues from all over the world coming to Vegas , it was one of the biggest Congresses in UFI ’ s history . With 65 speakers , we had more voices on the stages than ever before . With the launch of the North America Chapter , it leaves a very special legacy .
The programme was built around the five issues that are currently ‘ top of mind ’ for our industry – the changing customer expectations , staffing and talent , digitisation and AI , sustainability , and geopolitical and economic developments . I personally got great input for my company on each of these issues from the speakers and conversations around . In my view there is a consensus that we must stay united as an industry and keep pushing for faster implementation of carbon reduction measures as per our all ‘ Net Zero Carbon Events ’ initiative published guidance and best practices . And I am eager to discuss the inputs from this year ’ s ‘ UFI Next Generation Leaders ’ on how to update what we offer on and around the show floors .
Is the global exhibition industry truly able to ‘ Go Beyond ’ now that we are fully open for business again ? In which areas do you see the most promise and in where do the key challenges lie in the way of growth ? Yes , I believe the events industry can go beyond . As human beings , we simply achieve more and do better things when they work together . This is when we share new ideas , embrace new technologies , and collaborate on issues to build a better future – such as diversity / inclusion and sustainability .
As an industry we have often been overly margin focussed , and I think we need to think beyond that . Events have an important purpose to deliver thought leadership content and a show floor that delivers the innovations that allow an industry to evolve . For them to do this , we need to invest in more innovative and engaging content to satisfy our customers of today and tomorrow .
We also need to be more sustainable . This may reduce margins but that does not mean profits will go down . A standardised average event offering could have a revenue of $ 10m and a profit of $ 5m and a gross margin of 50 % – but with better content and more engaged customers , revenues could double to $ 20m with a reduced margin of 35 % but a gross profit of $ 7m .
So , while better content and investing into customers ’ expectations such as diversity / inclusion and sustainability will
“ During my presidency I want us to reach out to our supply chains such as airlines , hotels , venues , stand contractors to seek solutions to help us on the long journey towards fulfilling a net zero pledge .” reduce margins – we will potentially be rewarded for this investment with more customer support and increased revenues and higher profits .
I believe , from the discussions at the Congress , that organisers are seeing the need to evolve and be better and that the industry will deal with the challenges ahead , embrace the opportunities and become stronger and better . The NGL session at the Congress clearly set out the vision of future leaders in our industry for change and the audience fully understood and supported this .
What are your goals for your tenure as UFI president and how do you see the association moving forward and what are the priority areas ? First and foremost , UFI is always there to serve our global membership . We discuss and decide everything through this lens in the leadership . There is continuity in the programmes and services that we run and provide – with a strong call for advocacy on industry issues , a growing ask for UFI run educational programmes , with the world class UFI research , and of course the UFI events around the world .
And I want to empower UFI further to facilitate our industry ’ s journey towards Net Zero emissions . We cannot do this alone – we need to engage with our suppliers and discuss ways we can achieve this together . During my presidency I want us to reach out to our supply chains such as airlines , hotels , venues , stand contractors to seek solutions to help us on the long journey towards fulfilling a net zero pledge .
At the same time , I will work with the team to always develop UFI as an organisation . We will roll out our new membership fee model under my presidency – something
28 Issue 6 2023 www . exhibitionworld . co . uk