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Interview with Armin Egger, CEO of Messe Graz on the future of the exhibition industry, the future of trade shows, and how they greeted the “new normal” at Messe Graz.

“we are constantly working on new concepts for the possible implementation of events”

Q: How do you personally perceive the cancellation of trade shows?

Trade fairs and shows are our core business. For that reason, the current situation continues to hit us with full force. We too had to cancel all of our trade fairs, shows and events so far or postpone them indefinitely. Hopefully, we can restart as soon as possible.

Q: How has your company adapted to the new normal?

It was and is, of course, important for us to continue and to be there for our customers and visitors. Due to the situation and the „new normal“, our communication has shifted to the digital level too. A lot has happened in that matter. In addition, we are constantly working on new concepts for possible implementation of the events, that meet the official requirements and thus enable events to be held again.

Q: Is it possible to use the exhibition spaces for other purposes when there are no trade shows or events?

Of course, it is possible, and it happens in our exhibition spaces. On one hand, we use the time for repairs and renovations of the rooms, while on the other hand, they are also used for currently possible transactions. In our halls and rooms, for example, Covid tests and vaccinations are carried out, and the call centre for contact tracing is set up in our rooms as well.

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Photo Credit: Messe Graz

Q: What trade shows are you planning for this year, given that the epidemiological situation will be favourable?

Of course, we hope to be able to execute our own upcoming trade fairs and events this year. However, it all depends on the regulatory options and requirements. We are also on the road at international trade fairs and hope that day-to-day business can start up again soon as well.

Q: Trade shows have incredible multiplicative effects. Is the general public or government currently aware of these effects?

We do believe that the general public and the government know and are aware of this factor and these effects. Regardless of this, it is generally a very difficult matter to protect the population and initiate necessary measures and simultaneously find and enable a way back to “normal” life. That would be really important for both: for the people themselves as well as the economy.

Q: Does the government help you overcome the crisis, and how?

We are constantly in contact and in discussions with the government in general. They support us and other companies and industries in our country with the short-time work model, which enables us to continue securing and keeping jobs despite everything.

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Photo Credit: Messe Graz

“Hybrid and virtual trade fairs are great alternatives”

Q: Can you give our readers your perspective on the exhibition sector in the global market?

It depends on the situation of every single country. For international exhibitions, it will be a challenge to organise a global event because of the restrictions of the countries. We hope that small and medium exhibitions, conferences, conventions and events will be possible in Autumn 2021.

Q: Are virtual trade shows comparable to classic trade shows?

The current situation has made many new things possible, especially in the digitization sector. Hybrid and virtual trade fairs are, of course, great alternatives so that the trade fair can still be carried out. Nevertheless, we believe that face-to-face and the emotional experience of being part of a trade fair and having conversations will not be a long-term alternative.

Q: How have you adapted to the new reality of the meetings industry, which is much more digital and hybrid?

Digitization was an important topic in our company even before COVID-19 to which we have already dedicated ourselves in many forms. The current situation has now simply accelerated this advancement, which has also brought great further developments in many points. We have also devoted ourselves to this topic more intensively and worked on further solutions for better implementation.

Q: Who could be hired at this moment at your company? What would they have to showcase at the job interview?

That depends on the requirements profile of the position. We have a wide variety of areas, all of which are intertwined but produce many individual aspects. We currently have a few vacancies and are always looking forward to speculative applications.

EXTRA QUESTION FOR ARMIN

Q: High Tech or High Touch?

Both. And both combined.