Recently, Charlie McCurdy, CEO of Informa Markets announced he is stepping down from his position at the end of 2022 and will transition into Strategic Advisor for Informa Group. IAEE sat down with Charlie to get his perspectives on the future of the worldwide exhibitions industry.
IAEE: What is your take on the direction of the global exhibitions industry?
CHARLIE: The in-person format is a very compelling experience for buyers and suppliers. We have seen that proof throughout the first half of 2022 as our events make a healthy return to the show floor everywhere they are able to. I expect that trend to continue—the face-to-face experience is irreplaceable. At the same time, the behavior of our customers has evolved to using multiple channels to access the marketplace and find good prospective buyers and leads. The same goes for attendees on the buy side, gathering information about suppliers digitally and face-to-face. As exhibitions organizers we need to meet our customers where they are active, both on and off the show floor. The in-person format has room to continue to evolve and grow through a growing range of digital solutions and data-led opportunities. Informa Markets is transforming to meet those needs, from a leader in exhibitions into a true global market-access provider, using data and technology to advance the value we provide our customers. I believe that will be the direction moving forward across the industry—to do more for our customers wherever they are.
IAEE: What do you see in M&A activity? Is it more, or less, in one region of the world versus another?
CHARLIE: Our goal is to get more and more involved in the flow of commercial activity across attractive market sectors on a multi-regional basis. Thoughtful acquisitions can help us do more for the specialist industries we serve. We see lots of opportunity to invest in the communities we know so well, and provide more opportunity to them, whether that be in market expansion or in expanding the services we provide their communities. We just announced expansion in the Beauty category, with partnerships that allow us to grow the geographic footprint of our portfolio in that industry, as well as an expansion in the EMEA region, bringing more of the communities we serve to that emerging market. Similarly, Informa just announced the acquisition of a highly successful B2B media business, Industry Dive, which will support our ambitions to create more opportunity for our customers to reach and develop new audiences. For us, it always comes down to maximizing opportunity for the customer.
IAEE: What key ways of doing business have changed since the pandemic?
CHARLIE: Even more so post-pandemic, we have all come to expect processes to be streamlined and efficient through digital solutions, and personalized and customized to us through the smart use of data. During the pandemic, when tactile experiences were more limited, we relied more heavily in our daily lives on that data-driven journey across digital formats to find what we needed. I think our customers are expecting a similar experience from us now, to get get to their destination faster and more effectively—which is, like us, to grow their business profitably through the right connections, content and opportunity. That is not in place of the in-person format, but as part of it and in complement to it.
IAEE: What are your thoughts on workforce development and how it’s affecting the entire events ecosystem? Is it worse or better in various regions of the world?
CHARLIE: The human capital market is hot at the moment, and that certainly poses a challenge to our workforce development globally. It also allows us to reflect on our colleague value proposition and find creative ways to attract new talent. We have invested in building out a Product team, and hired new Transformation leadership, and that gives us credibility to attract like-minded talent as we continue to restore and evolve our business. We are also purposefully upskilling our talent across the board.
How do you feel about the future of Informa?
CHARLIE: Informa Markets’ future is a bright one. What was once a great regional exhibitions business is now a world-leading market access business. Today, we are leading the way in Smart Events, harnessing data about suppliers and buyers, and increasingly empowering customers with digital services to advance the value we provide our customers. We organize hundreds of really great trade shows in over 30 countries that are vibrant! There is so much opportunity on the horizon, and I am happy to continue to be driving the progress of IM, I’m highly confident in the leadership of Patrick Martell to grow to our role in highly attractive B2B markets worldwide.
Informa has been an IAEE member since 1986. Informa staff play an active role in IAEE committees and taskforces.