Is the exhibition industry the next to be Uberized?

Everyone knows what Uber did to the taxi industry, what Amazon did to distribution and what AirBnB did to the hotel industry. It has been witnessed how companies like Nokia, Blackberry and Kodak disappeared practically overnight because they missed the train of disruption. Could the same happen to the exhibition industry? Could a newcomer revolutionise the way trade shows are done? Could someone find a simpler, cheaper, hyper-personalized and super-convenient way to organise events without the traditional organisers and venue owners?


At the last UFI Global Congress in November 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gunnar Heinrich (CEO adventics & Scan2Lead) held a session on “Digital Disruption” with his colleagues from the Digital Innovation Committee Stephan Forseilles (easyfairs) and Matthias Tesi Baur (MBB-Media). The panel raised different controversial and thought-provoking topics with the audience, prompting a lively debate over the pros and cons of each issue.


Some are afraid this could happen because, in a digital world, matchmaking happens 365 days a year across numerous media, social networks and mobile apps, not just during a trade show period. Companies look for more flexible ways to showcase their products and the next generation will look for infotainment formats that traditional organisers struggle to provide.

On the other hand, it was argued that the business model in itself might not be interesting enough for external investors. “We see a lot of sharks coming up in our pond who want to monetise on data we are just unable to handle ourselves. As barriers to entry remains high and assets remain in the hand of the existing operators, the danger is not too close…” As long as they manage the Digital Transformation themselves and do not resist to the change their customers expect to happen!

The trade show executives present in the room tended to agree. A majority of them think the exhibition industry should not fear the rise of new formats and operators. They think the industry as a whole is already doing a good job in terms of improving the customer experience and providing modern tools and format to attendees and organisers.

So, fear is not creeping in the minds of the leaders of the exhibition industry. However, they remain aware that the status quo is not an option and that they must aim to provide a service on par with what the amazon, Apple, AirBnB and Uber of this world have been providing for years.


This article is based on Stephan Forseilles’ post “Is the exhibition industry the next to be Uberized?” in the UFI Digital Innovation Group on LinkedIn. Keep in touch and stay updated on digital innovations in the exhibition industry.

Come and join us on our LinkedIn Group (“UFI Digital Innovation Group” or or follow us on Twitter (@UFIDigital). Join your expert peers in the event industry and be part of the community shaping the future of events.

Once a year, we invite CIOs, marketers, IT specialists and anyone else interested in the digital transformation of our event industry for a focus meeting. Packed with interesting sessions and presentations, the focus meeting is also where the three finalists for the Innovation Award will showcase their solutions. Attend our meeting and vote for the winner.

Munich, 16 July 2018, © adventics GmbH