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  • Antony Reeve-Crook

An industry that unites the world

You may have noticed that today (8 June, 2016) marked the inaugural Global Exhibitions Day, an initiative set in motion by the good folk at UFI, the Paris-based – but entirely global – association of the exhibition industry.

As offices close in Europe, the hashtag #GED2016 has been included in tweets from more than 60 countries, each one indicating their support for trade shows and exhibitions, be it alone on the train, in the boardroom, on a run around Paris, or as part of a communal skyward smile, captured by drone on the forecourt of their HQ.

And with colleagues in North America still going through their morning emails while those in Asia retire for the night, having caught only the beginning of the web traffic, I would expect the momentum to continue as people raise a cheer to this vibrant, crucial industry.

What is particularly satisfying to me, is that this initiative will be brought to the attention of those who say that the very notion of an exhibition industry is unfounded, that in each instance a show is simply one facet of an industry, for a finite time; ‘a market in a bubble’ or a flash economy, as some commentators have observed.

Because after years embedded in the global events marketplace I, like every last one of my colleagues, know otherwise. I have stood onstage and shared observations with event directors in Sao Paolo, I have sat with public sector officials looking for new ways to bring business to bring their shows to Taipei, and I’ve debated with protectionist industry leaders in Galicia, keen to introduce international trade but not damage the local livelihoods of their friends and family.

And make no mistake, while the posts I've read today have been originally composed in multiple languages from 60 countries, those in the global exhibitions industry speak in the same tongue. Their trials and tribulations are shared, progress for one is progress for all and where some markets are more advanced, the others will surely follow.

The power of exhibitions is not to be understated. In addition to fomenting trade and – ultimately – jobs, exhibitions are part of the reason that industries and society progress. Those meetings in a hall many miles from corporate headquarters can generate or resolve a business case that tackled in isolation may otherwise endure indefinitely.

Sometimes the solutions we seek are right there in front of us, it simply takes others to point it out. Let us not forget that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon before Bernard D. Sadow put wheels on a suitcase in 1970; such innovation is a fundamental result of gathering likeminded individuals in one place.

This advance exists in our industry too. Today's exhibitions have a digital component that lasts well beyond the time the doors to the show have closed. We're seeing dialogues continue right up until the next edition of the exhibition takes place. Rinse and repeat.

So here's to an industry that continues to signal its significance as our connectivity, facilitated by the digital age, evolves and enables people to function at once remotely and together, working hard to progress the markets they serve.

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