By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
With the recent announcement of Global Exhibitions Day, we are entering a time where the emphasis on international collaboration is at the forefront of the exhibitions and events industry. Given the general direction that the global business market is taking, it comes as no surprise that our industry is ready to take full advantage of its subsequent benefits. After all, we have spent years emphasizing our impact on the overall U.S. economy and establishing our slice of the GDP (gross domestic product) pie.
Why is the global market so enticing?
With the expansion of visa waiver programs – albeit with a careful eye on security – the doors have literally opened for show organizers to move into new territories. Countries such as China lead the way in expanding their exhibitions and events, with India, South Africa and Latin America not far behind. Companies in the U.S. want to expand upon their established market and emerging international business pools look inviting. Likewise, burgeoning markets are hungry to establish their foothold in the global scene. Add to this the technology wild card and you have an interesting mix of ways to “go global.”
It is a good time to be a show organizer wanting to explore new territories. As Managing Director for Conference & Exhibition Management Services Pte Ltd in Singapore, Edward Liu, PBM has spent more than 40 years blazing trails in the exhibitions and events industry throughout Asia. He is well versed in the art of introducing and growing shows across international borders, a skill that earned him the 2015 IAEE International Excellence Award. Here, Edward shares his thoughts on the future of the global exhibitions and events industry.
IAEE: You are a 40-year veteran of the global exhibitions and events industry. What aspect do you feel has changed the most in how international shows are produced throughout your career? What aspect has changed the least?
Edward: Indeed, I have spent almost 40 years organizing exhibitions in Asia, mostly in the Southeast Asian countries and China. Firstly, international events were mainly held in Singapore in the 1970s, before moving to Thailand in the 1980s, Malaysia in the 1990s, and now more and more in Indonesia and Vietnam. Initially, the organizers were mainly from the United Kingdom and Germany; and most of them have now moved on to China. Thus, the major organizers in Southeast Asia now, are mainly local companies and the local offices of European organizers.
Throughout this period, I have noticed that the international shows have become more focused and specialized; and many of these events have become global exhibitions, especially those in mainland China. Increasingly, many of the international organizers are using modern technology to manage their events utilizing mobile applications and social media, which is fast becoming a mainstream media for the convention and exhibition industry.
IAEE: What crucial advice would you give a show organizer who wants to expand an event beyond its domestic borders?
Edward: From a U.S. perspective, it is important if not crucial for an American organizer to work with a local partner, if it wants to expand beyond its borders! This is more so in Asia, especially in China. This is because the American organizer no longer possesses the dominant strength in any industry. China, which is now the second largest economy in the world, has the depth and width in the exhibition industry, thanks to the localization of the organizers from Germany, such as Messes Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf. Hence, American organizers must be prepared to cooperate and co-exist with local organizers in Asia, if they wish to expand beyond their borders and succeed in Asia.
IAEE: How do you prepare for understanding the proper business protocol when traveling to a new destination?
Edward: To be candid, it would be useful for an organizer to seek out the advice of a colleague or IAEE member in the new destination, before making the trip. Alternatively, one should seek the advice of the Commercial Offices of the U.S. Embassies which have local staff to provide advice on local business protocol and contacts. One must make a visit to a new destination to better understand the local culture and business practices, before making serious contacts with prospective partners.
IAEE: What advances in the global industry have surprised you the most and what do you think will be the next steps in the globalization of the industry?
Edward: What had surprised me was the early introduction of social media in the United States in the last decade. I had never expected that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter would be embraced by the exhibition industry so readily and pervasively that they are now considered as part of the mainstream media throughout the world. With the emergence of the Alpha generation, more and more organizers are expected to adopt digital marketing and utilizing media such as Tumblr and Pinterest, etc. I think that the best of the digital world is still to come! And organizers ignore them at their own peril!
IAEE: What is your favorite professional achievement, and why is it so special to you?
Edward: In my career in the exhibition industry, my claim to fame is that I had helped to introduce and develop the aerospace industry in Singapore, through the launch of the premiere Asian Aerospace in 1981, which I had directed when working for a British company, ITF in the early 1980s. The event had succeeded to bring into Singapore, companies like Boeing, Rolls Royce, General Electric and United Technologies, amongst others. Today, the aerospace industry in Singapore is a major contributor to its diversified economy.
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