Stefan Seitz, Show Director for ISH
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Knowledge transfer and interdisciplinary dialogue at ISH digital

Trade fairs and business events have still not been able to drive innovation and progress in early 2021 on account of the coronavirus. Yet the pandemic has made interdisciplinary exchange on topics such as climate protection, interior air quality and hygiene standards more important than ever. ISH, the world’s leading trade fair for HVAC and water, will be taking place digitally from 22 to 26 March. In our interview, Stefan Seitz, Show Director for ISH, shared with us the things that make ISH digital 2021 the industry’s most important meeting place.

February 2021

Mr. Seitz, experience with digital event formats during the coronavirus year 2020 made it clear that physical industry gatherings cannot be replaced by digital events. What are the focal points of the ISH digital concept?

ISH’s importance as the international industry platform for the HVAC and water industries has not changed. It will simply be taking place in a different format in 2021, when it will be online on account of the pandemic. In designing this digital event, we focused on two key areas of emphasis: fostering knowledge transfer and networking amongst experts. We offer participants an extensive conference programme in the form of live streams, because the topics covered by ISH are more important than ever. One of the future-oriented areas being discussed at ISH digital 2021 in the Energy area is the ‘Green Deal’. The tremendous importance of air conditioning and ventilation systems – particularly in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – is also at the forefront of this year's event. ISH Water is centred on safe drinking water and maintaining proper hygiene in domestic bathrooms, a field that includes dirt- and bacteria-resistant surfaces and the hands-free operation of fixtures and toilets. To facilitate this knowledge transfer both within and amongst different trades, we are also offering exhibitors on the digital ISH platform the opportunity to present their own products and innovations. Thanks to video calls and chats, participants will be able to follow this up with bilateral dialogue in which they can go into greater detail on the content. Our AI-supported matchmaking helps them find the right business partners and establish new contacts

Messe Frankfurt is a reliable partner of long standing to business, and it works closely with members of the industry. Has this also been the case during the planning process for ISH digital?

ISH is the leading international trade fair for its industry, and Messe Frankfurt enjoys the industry's full support. We always work closely with the associations that sponsor ISH, who also have a say in decisions. These sponsors include the Federation of German Heating Industry (BDH), Fachverband Gebäude-Klima e.V. (FGK), VdZ – Forum für Energieeffizienz in der Gebäudetechnik e.V., Vereinigung Deutsche Sanitärwirtschaft e.V. (VDS) and the Zentralverband Sanitär Heizung Klima (ZVSHK). In addition, we are collaborating with other partner associations amongst ISH’s exhibitors and visitors. We have worked together to monitor developments throughout the pandemic, and during a meeting last autumn we decided to go ahead with ISH digital. Our sponsors are supporting Messe Frankfurt in its efforts to attract exhibitors and address the relevant target groups, and they are playing an active role in the creation of the supporting programme. Messe Frankfurt provides the platform for ISH, while the associations create the content. We are taking the same approach for ISH digital.

ISH is the world’s leading trade fair for HVAC and water. More than 2,500 exhibitors present their latest products and innovations to some 190,000 visitors here. What opportunities are available to exhibitors for presenting their wares in the digital sphere?

Exhibitors can publish their own company profile on ISH Contractor, which allows them to present not only their essential contact details, but also their product photos, videos and downloads. Exhibitors can update their own company profiles at any time. Not only will this content be automatically updated to the digital platform for ISH digital from 22 to 26 March, but it will also appear on the ISH website beforehand, where it will remain online even after the event until the end of 2022. With over one million page views since the last ISH, the website is one of the most important research resources for the industry. Exhibitors’ profile data will also be integrated into the digital platform – as a result, suitable business partners can take advantage of AI-supported matchmaking and exhibitors can contact their target groups via chat and video calls.

In addition, as part of its digital platform, ISH also offers a dedicated streaming channel for exhibitors. This gives exhibitors the opportunity to actively take part in the ISH digital programme, perhaps to showcase new products for participants in a live stream.

What special features does ISH digital offer participants who are primarily taking part as visitors?

AI-supported matchmaking is used to supply all participants on the digital platform with suggestions for suitable business partners and events in the supporting programme that could be of interest. Personal calendars help everyone to maintain an overview of their own schedules, including supporting programme content and one-to-one meetings. Participants will also have an opportunity to actively interact during presentations and live sessions, pose questions for the speakers, and personally take part in the discussions.

A special new feature: the trades are heavily represented in ISH’s visitor target groups. To ensure that they are able to follow along with ISH digital if they are working on a building site, we will be offering web radio on the ISH website from 22 to 26 March.

Does holding ISH in the digital realm open up any possibilities or opportunities that are unavailable to a physical event?

Visitor behaviour at ISH digital will be entirely different to that at a physical trade fair. The idea behind it is that each participant will be able to set up their own ‘trade fair day’ in a way that aligns much more closely with their personal interests. The AI-supported matchmaking facility that has been integrated into the platform makes it easier to do this by supplying suggestions for suitable business partners, product innovations and presentations that could be relevant. The on-demand programme makes it possible to view content whenever it is convenient – I’m not tied to a particular time, and it can even be after the event has concluded. Recordings of all the live sessions will remain available even after 26 March. The contact facilities provided on the platform will also remain active until the end of April. Participants have more time in the digital realm to take advantage of all the opportunities and content on offer. And, thanks to the expanded time frame, the topics featured at ISH achieve greater reach.

Challenging times often give rise to new ideas and trends. What are some of the digital possibilities for ISH over the long term?

We have been developing and trialling a wide range of digital opportunities and content in these formats, and we have every intention of integrating these into our events over the long term. Digital capabilities supplement physical trade fairs by giving exhibitors and visitors greater flexibility in configuring their own individual trade fair experiences. Supplemental digital capabilities provide exhibitors with a stronger ongoing presence amongst their target groups both before and after the physical events. Visitors – particularly those from outside Germany – get the chance to continue their trade fair visits digitally if their schedules force them to depart a physical event before it has concluded. With physical trade fairs as a foundation, supplemental digital capabilities give our customers the chance to network with one another and maintain contact during the rest of the year as well.

Mr. Seitz, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.


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