GLOBAL LOUNGE : It’s Show Time – In Berlin

Ask Raimund Hosch what the most enjoyable part of his job is and he replies: “What I love most is what I have done this morning – staying in touch with the exhibitors, watching how the show is turning out and seeing that my exhibitors are satisfied with their orders. An international trade show is such an exciting business.”
What’s not apparent from this seemingly casual response is how gruelling “staying in touch” with over 1000 exhibitors is. NZ Management just managed to catch up with Hosch in between carefully coordinated schedule where he visited host of stands. As the following interview reveals, trade show management requires great deal of commitment and an eye for detail.

How many months of planning does each show require?
The old saying “before the fair is after the fair” applies to us as organisers too. Particularly when it comes to annual events such as IFA there are now no longer any breaks for trade fair teams. Canvassing for the next event begins even while the last one is still going on. In the case of our leading international trade fairs and the strong brands they represent, sometimes more than 60 percent of exhibitors register for the next event even before the last one has finished. Naturally, that kind of success is the result of years of hard work by the trade fair teams in question.
As rule one can say that the period between trade fairs requires very tight organisation. One of the biggest challenges is the often very brief time window for construction and dismantling between individual events. That requires optimum coordination among everyone involved.

How big is the team required to handle this?
Of course that varies from trade fair to trade fair. Thus minor events often only have two to three people who strictly belong to the project team. Major trade fairs such as IFA or ITB have core of 10 to 15 on their team, with additional staff assisting during the actual event. Project teams are aided by numerous interdisciplinary departments within the company, such as technical services, advertising, marketing and the press, all the way up to the protocol department for VIPs and supporting events. decisive contribution also comes from our subsidiaries which provide technical services, facility management and catering. We also cooperate with outside contractors, particularly when there is major trade fair. The success of show depends on so many things. In the case of large trade fair such as ITB or IFA, up to 23,000 staff working for exhibitors, service providers and our management team are involved at the venue of the event.
How does recession affect how management sets up and handles an international trade show?
Naturally the economic situation in Germany and abroad has had an effect on canvassing for exhibitors and trade visitors. Competition has become more intense, and making the numbers add up has become more difficult. Companies give taking part some serious thought. Business trips to trade fairs at home and abroad come under much more scrutiny than before. However, most companies are aware of how important trade fairs are as low-cost, highly effective marketing instrument, particularly in weaker sales periods. We wish some companies had more courage to aggressively market their products. That would put them in front when the economy picks up. Many companies walk tightrope balancing communication cost-cutting with sensible marketing investment in bid to achieve short-term savings.
Leading fairs mirror the market situation in nutshell and are better at reflecting company’s market standing than any other marketing instrument. Market dynamics always come into play at an industry’s leading trade fair. Next year will begin with very wide-ranging programme of events, with 18 major shows in the first six months alone. We are confident that 2010 will be positive year for trade fairs.

What do most of IFA’s business visitors want to get out of them and how are you facilitating networking etc?
IFA offers trade visitors an ideal platform to do business. It is also platform for networking with industry members, colleagues and journalists. Trade visitors, who are the real VIPs at IFA, have wide range of opportunities to meet away from the main areas of trading and exchange information. Thus the International Trade Visitor Reception at the south entrance is an exclusive business and service area for trade visitors at IFA, providing an opportunity to prepare for the event ahead of the show, in relaxed atmosphere over small breakfast and with the IFA daily newspaper. This is where free package for trade visitors and wide selection of the latest trade and business publications are also available.
There are number of other services which make life easier for international trade visitors at IFA. They include travel packages, advance registration, free airport shuttle, fast lane access at the entrance and free internet access. The IFA International Keynotes stand out, they are an exclusive series of lectures given by the CEOs of leading brand exhibitors, introducing the latest innovations of the consumer electronics and home appliances industries.
In general one can say that trade fairs represent an extremely effective and cost-saving marketing instrument. The cost of meeting customers at shows is significantly less than sales force work. These meetings are of much higher quality as they are conducted between interested and well prepared business partners, involving not only the products of single manufacturer, but the entire spectrum of the industry. With such head start, nothing is more valuable than face-to-face meetings at shows such as IFA.

How frequently do you travel per year – both nationally and internationally?
Being able to communicate globally via internet, email etc keeps this within limits. I travel to numerous countries in Asia two to three times year, and combine trip with several visits and presentations. I also travel to the Americas just as often, as well as within Germany and Europe.

What are your hobbies?
In summer I go golfing with my wife and children on weekends, and once every winter I go skiing in the Alps.

How do you handle your work life balance/ the pace of the job? Do you still have time for your family?
I find it very important to also have time for my family and particularly for my wife, although with two boys aged 12 and 15, managing “crises” over what is right and wrong is often more difficult than my job.

Pauline Herbst attended IFA in Berlin as guest of the New Zealand German Business Association and Messe Berlin.

Career highlights

1999 – present: CEO and president of Messe Berlin GmbH
1997 – 1999: Spokesman for the Messe Frankfurt group
1992 – 1999: Managing director of Messe Frankfurt GmbH; chairman and president of the five subsidiaries of Messe Frankfurt in Atlanta, Bombay, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo
1982 – 1992: Managing director and co-partner, Steeb Informationstechnik GmbH, Heilbronn
1978 – 1982: Director of finance and controlling of Goldwell GmbH, Darmstadt

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