North America

New UFI director: Eventprofs ‘bullish’ despite global crises

The events industry is “bullish and optimistic” despite geopolitical challenges sweeping the globe, according to a new UFI leader.

Martha Donato, regional director for North America, pointed to the upcoming “volatile” US election as an example before claiming “the show will go on”.

She was speaking to ExpoPlatform after taking on the position for the recently established chapter of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. 

Donato, who is also president of MAD Event Management, said: “Around the world, geopolitics is being discussed in industry boardrooms – we know that from countless conversations and also from our research.

“At the same time, we are on track to see the best year ever for our industry – and the US is poised to be the fastest-growing market among the three world-leading markets US, China and Germany. 

“So, for now we are bullish and optimistic. If we know something from the past, it is that the exhibitions industry faces challenges head-on, always adapting to change and moving forward.

“In the US, we have a volatile election in 2024 that may create friction between some groups, but the show will go on.”

Donato has extensive experience of over 25 years in the tradeshows, exhibitions and conferences sector in North America – positioning her well to lead UFI’s initiatives in the region.

The launch of the North America chapter marked a significant milestone for the organisation, emphasising its dedication to the region and its growing membership.

UFI already had other regional chapters around the world that serve members in Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, Europe as well as in the MEA region.

A total of 7% of all UFI members are already from North America, which was part of the reason behind the establishment North America Chapter – to give them same representation as peers from the rest of the world. 

Donato added: “It signifies that the membership in North America is keen to be a fully participating group with their colleagues internationally.

“The opportunity to collaborate with our peers is a critical success factor.”

The exhibitions industry in North America is one of the largest in the world, with many large for-profit show organisers directly connected to businesses elsewhere. 

This year’s Global CEO Summit in Amsterdam also saw many chief executives from the region gather with colleagues from other parts of the globe. 

Donato highlighted how many of the challenges faced in the industry are commonplace wherever a business is placed – but specific problems do exist.

She said: “On many industry challenges, our region is aligned with others, but our latest research also shows the differences.

“In the US, for example, we are much less worried about the state of our home economy, compared to our global peers, and competition within our industry is also ranked clearly below the global average.

“At the same time, we are more concerned about internal management challenges here in the US compared to the world – and a lot of that has to do with staffing challenges.”

Meanwhile, UFI’s latest Barometer research shows more than 50% of all businesses in the exhibition industry across North America use generative AI in sales, marketing and customer relations.

Donato highlighted how this is “way ahead of the global average” and predicted further uptake in future.

She said: “The growth of digital tools in the region is inevitable as AI continues to expand its growth. There are groups such as SISO and IAEE who are tackling it through various working groups and committees.

“UFI has said that it’s one of our five trends to watch in 2024 – and we will follow up and identify and share good practices and learnings.

“Tools can allow organisers and suppliers to do more on an automated basis, giving back precious time for other high-level work.”


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