Ms. Ewert, despite the ongoing challenges for live events, Messe Frankfurt is ready for a restart with Prolight + Sound. What is the mood in the industry?
I would say: Everyone is hungry, hungry for personal encounters. Everyone wants things to get going again. The event industry is facing a decisive key year: After tough restrictions in the last 24 months, there is now a high demand for shared experiences.
In concrete terms, this means that the industry wants to present itself, network and finally take a joint look at a successful future again. But there are also challenges: As great as the desire to restart is, there is a high demand for skilled workers - especially after the challenges of the last two years. Incidentally, the shortage of skilled workers is not just a problem in the event industry; it also affects many other sectors. At Prolight + Sound, we have created our own networking area with the "Future Hub" to bring recruiting companies and young talent together, in other words to network "supply" and "demand".
The great thing is that, despite all the economic constraints of the last two years, many important processes and projects have been launched in the event industry. First and foremost: green technologies and solutions for the implementation of resource-saving events. Here, at Prolight + Sound, the industry will show that the most spectacular event experiences and environmentally conscious execution are not mutually exclusive.
We are incredibly looking forward to seeing people from the industry again and finally getting back to doing what we love. Providing the perfect stage for the companies at Prolight + Sound! By the way, this means that we as Messe Frankfurt are not only service providers, but also part of the industry ourselves.
How did Messe Frankfurt help exhibitors not to lose contact with their customers?
These were different offerings that we created to stay in touch with the industry. We are dealing with two different starting points: IFFA takes place in its original rhythm despite the pandemic, so it was never affected as an event by a postponement or suspension. Prolight + Sound, on the other hand, was unable to take place twice as an annual event. Overall, we worked with different digital formats at the technical trade fairs, always with the exhibitor in mind: starting with podcasts and Zoom interviews, through digital press formats, to a completely digital ISH. At Prolight + Sound, we created and carried out the "Prolight + Sound BIZLounge", a streaming format with panels and discussion rounds around current burning issues in the industry - especially against the backdrop of the special challenges posed by the pandemic. Participants were representatives of manufacturers, location operators, associations and educational institutions.
IFFA is accompanied by the IFFA Digital Extension: Here it is important to take exhibitors along and explain to them what advantages the platform offers - especially in terms of networking, communication and leads. In addition to individual appointments with exhibitors, where the show director usually takes everyone along again and shows and explains the individual functions, or the so-called "how to" videos, we have developed an animation video from marketing communication across departments, events and divisions. This clearly demonstrates the functions and advantages of the digital platform, such as the video chats, networking or the digital showrooms. The aim was to inform our customers in an entertaining and likeable way about the functions and advantages of the Digital Extension on a higher level.
I think we made very good use of the time and - despite all the adversities, or precisely because of them - made a great deal of progress, especially digitally.
IFFA is preparing for the event days in May with an equally consistent look ahead. What can trade fair visitors expect?
Indeed, I can only repeat myself: Here, too, the industry is hungry and waiting in the wings to meet at its leading international trade show.
Overall, the popularity is very high: around 900 exhibitors from more than 40 countries will be exhibiting at IFFA. They will come with innovations for the processing, packaging and sale of meat and alternative proteins. IFFA takes place every three years, which is related to the innovation cycle of the companies. The mood is good, machinery sales are almost at pre-Corona levels and the butchery trade is eager to invest, according to a survey by the German Butchers Association. All in all, butchers have come through the crisis relatively well. The best conditions, then, for a great IFFA.
What's on offer: Of course, an exciting event program with a mix of knowledge transfer and discussion at the IFFA Forum, we will set up a live production line for vegan and meat sausage products, and the IFFA Discovery Tours will offer an exciting overview and inspiration. If things continue the way they left off in 2019 - and that they will, the president of the German Butchers' Association promised me - then I recommend the butchers' trade competitions. It's a unique atmosphere, especially when it's the youngsters' turn.
How has the concept of IFFA in 2022 evolved compared to the last event in 2019? What are important lessons learned from the Corona pandemic?
Although IFFA was not directly affected by the pandemic through postponement or suspension, it has undergone an incredible development. In its 73rd year, it has broadened its focus: besides meat, additionally towards alternative proteins. Exhibitors will present technologies and solutions for plant-based meat substitutes and alternative proteins. Thus, the event opens up to the global consumption trend and reflects it at the fair. About 200 exhibitors have offerings in the field.
Why is this so important and why does it suit IFFA so well? It's about feeding a growing world population safely, hygienically, healthily and sustainably. It's about future-proof concepts that showcase new products and additional nutritional pillars from plants, insects or even cell-based meat, in addition to classic meat consumption. It's about showing the future at IFFA.
In addition to our long-standing important partners such as the VDMA and the German Butchers' Association, we have been able to win new partners, such as the German Association for Alternative Protein Sources Balpro, the Good Food Institute Europe and the nutrition organization ProVeg. They all contribute their know-how and networks so that IFFA can and will assert itself as a leading trade fair worldwide.
As a trade fair visitor, what is the best way to prepare for my visit to the Frankfurt exhibition grounds?
There are many ways to get information about Prolight + Sond or IFFA. The first and most important is our website: It is the hub where everything comes together, where all information is prepared and dynamically made available to exhibitors as well as visitors and journalists. It's also where you'll find all the links to the IFFA Contactor, for example, the international industry search directory, where every exhibitor is represented with their own individual profile: with company data, contacts, pictures, videos and information on products, innovations and solutions. A new feature of the IFFA Contactor is that the search engine is available 24/7/365 - i.e. up-to-date information around the clock, 365 days a year.
If, contrary to expectations, I do not have the opportunity to visit the trade fairs in April and May. What options do I have to gain insights into the innovations and trends?
There is the possibility to be part of IFFA via the IFFA Digital Extension: The digital platform for IFFA offers some exciting options during and after the show. For example, to network with suitable business partners via the matchmaking function using an AI-supported search function. Then you can get in touch with exhibitors directly via the chat function and real-time video communication. The whole thing is responsive, of course, so participation is also possible on the go with mobile devices.
IFFA Digital Extension will be open to visitors from May 14 to 31, 2022.
And finally: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming events? Do you have any special highlights?
I'm most looking forward to that special trade fair smell on the first day, you can't describe it, but everyone who does trade shows knows it: a mixture of wood, carpet, paint, new furniture, coffee.... When I smell it on the first day of a trade fair, I know: we've done it this time! It's actually true and we're doing trade shows again. I'm excited to pull together with colleagues and partners to put on a terrific event. I'm looking forward to meeting people, reconnecting with long-time contacts, getting to know new ones. I am looking forward to meeting colleagues from the Messe Frankfurt family from all over the world. I'm looking forward to positive stress, to the buzz and bustle in the halls, to the industry topics, to happy hour with the journalists in the Press Center and to the kilometers we'll be "scrubbing" again. This time I won't be complaining about aching feet either. That's a promise!
Dominique Ewert, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
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