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Kongres Magazine chatted with the trendsetters of the Meetings Star influencers selection. Innovating and sustainably-oriented stars of the meetings industry shared their thoughts on sustainable transformation in the meetings industry. Kyriakos Pozrikidis, CEO of TIF – Helexpo, shared how the exhibition industry is incorporating sustainability into its agenda and why digital exhibitions have no spill-over effects on the local economy.

The ninth selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine concluded with the award ceremony hosted in Cankarjev dom. The selected influencers are pioneers in their respective fields and help co-create the regional meetings industry. Kongres Magazine’s selection is, in a way, an overview of who is who in the industry.

Q1: In times of crisis, we tend to draw parallels with the past. What have we learned so far to make our industry better and more responsible to attendees and the environment in the future?

The exhibition industry was hit hard by the pandemic but survived and made a major contribution to addressing the increased needs of that period by providing facilities for the urgent establishment of vaccination, as well as hospitalisation centres.

There is no doubt that these circumstances strengthened the viability of the exhibition and conference industry and, at the same time, showed us that we must be prepared even for scenarios which might seem inconceivable. Nevertheless, the exhibition industry is now stronger and capable of managing multiple challenges by utilising technology and relying on the ingenuity of industry members.

It is obvious that the pandemic contributed to the upgrading of hygiene and safety levels in the exhibition industry while also setting a priority for the companies regarding the fulfilment of the ESG criteria. The criteria Environmental, Social & Governance will be a “protagonist” for drawing up a strategy in the field of exhibitions and conferences. At the same time, the criteria will also determine investment decisions, as well as the creation of new exhibition events with relevant content.

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Photo Credit: TIF - Helexpo

“Digital exhibitions have no spill-over effects on the local economy and growth.”

Q2: What is your take on the various event types, some invented during the corona crisis (live, digital, hybrid, metaverse)? How will we transition in the future?

While in-person exhibitions remain irreplaceable, at the same time, hybrid exhibition events are playing an increasingly important role across the globe. It is obvious that trade fairs play a key role in post-pandemic recovery, but they must gradually change and become modernised.

Every exhibition organiser must also have digital offerings for the market. Hybrid events, which combine digital interaction with a limited physical presence, have become a reality for exhibition organisations.

However, digital exhibitions have no spill-over effects on the local economy and growth. Exhibition centres do not just constitute economic infrastructure but also play a societal role. So the digital path can only exist in addition to the exhibition with a natural presence. In-person exhibitions will never be replaced as they boast the absolute advantage of stimulating all five human senses.

Q3: What are your priorities to reach the goal of creating a carbon-neutral meetings industry? How environmentally aware is your organisation? How do your clients see sustainability? Can you illustrate with case studies?

Adhering to the principles of the circular economy and sustainable development and driven by ESG goals, TIF-HELEXPO, the national exhibition body of Greece, took the initiative of holding the Detrop & Oenos 2023 exhibitions, held at the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre from 18 to 20 February 2023, as its first exhibitions organised as ‘Just Go Zero Exhibition Events’.

Just Go Zero – HELEXPO aims to transform the pavilions of the fair into proper sorting areas aiming at the best possible material recovery. In order for Detrop & Oenos to be held as Just Go Zero Exhibition Events, the waste collection was first distinguished into three separate categories (streams):

  • Organic waste (food and coffee)
  • Recyclable materials &
  • Non-recyclable materials

Both visitors and exhibitors are invited to place their waste at the sorting stations bearing special markings to ensure proper collection of recyclable materials and promote the circular economy. TIF-HELEXPO will be held in the next period of time the 1st International Exhibition on the Circular Economy, FORWARD GREEN.

FORWARD GREEN is addressed to businesses, agencies and organisations that adopt modern practices of the utilisation of raw materials, structural materials, technologies, energy, recycling and packaging, which through innovative solutions and “smart” collaborations, will have a positive impact on reducing environmental pollution and increasing the life cycle of products and services, while creating new business opportunities.

Energy saving systems, bioclimatic design, Renewable Energy Sources, recycling and waste management, modern building materials, water treatment, product design, electric vehicles etc., are the “menu” of FORWARD GREEN. The exhibition also includes a program of parallel events and a Conference on circular economy.

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Photo Credit: TIF - Helexpo

“Exhibitions as an innovative tool lead the transition from the linear to the circular model.”

Q4: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?

The future of exhibitions and conferences is promising, with globalisation playing a key role in this respect. After the pandemic, the exhibition industry recovered substantially and regained its position in the development context of the world economy and the interconnection of markets. Changes have been and were necessary in order for the exhibition industry to base its operation more on sustainable and sustainable criteria, which have affected every aspect of human activity.

Exhibitions as an innovative tool lead the transition from the linear to the circular model in the protection of the environment and the preservation of natural resources. Towards this direction, the exhibition industry must also educate its customers. The values that must underpin the exhibition and conference industry are providing services to our clients with respect for the environment, with a sense of social responsibility and security. We are creating conditions for people to come together – this is a very important element, which needs constant diligence and review.

Q5: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?

Young colleagues are very well-trained and highly familiar with the technologies of the present and future. They must be patient and willing to work together and effectively in order to succeed in the exhibition, event and conference industry.

They need to show off adaptability to the new era, expect the unexpected and have as their priorities professional development in combination with social sensitivity and knowledge of the wider environment in which they operate. The future is theirs, but the foundations on which they will stand are solid and proven.

Q6: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?

The selection of the most influential people in the exhibition and conference industry by Kongres Magazine has won great acclaim in the international meeting, event and conference industry, with the list including people who have left their mark on the industry. I would give the title to Kongres Magazine itself because it shapes industry developments presents trends in the exhibition industry and contributes to the improvement of professionals who are employed in exhibitions and conferences internationally.

This accolade for yet another year is a great honour for me, and I believe the trust shown by my people in the industry will further boost my activities. I would like to thank Kongres Magazine.

Learn more about TIF – Helexpo here.

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