Milind Dixit: I foresee an era of hybrid exhibitions

Milind Dixit, managing director of Koelnmesse says, "Meeting people is second nature, especially for people in the Asian continent. I foresee an era of hybrid exhibitions."

30 Nov 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Milind Dixit, managing director of Koelnmesse

What is the update on your shows?
We organise the largest food and food technology trade fairs in India -Annapoorna Anufood India, Anutec FoodTec India, PackEx India, Food Logistics India and Anutec Ingredients India. This year the events were supposed to take place at the Bombay Exhibition Centre. However, we had to postpone our shows because of the Covid-19 outbreak worldwide. Now, the new schedule is 3-5 February 2022, and we are very optimistic about the same. All our future shows are on schedule at the moment.

One thing that you wish you could’ve done to keep the industry up and running...
I feel a 365-day digital platform would have helped keep the business community engaged even during such times and our industry could run by offering powerful matchmaking solutions, we are expert at it.  

A typical SOP to be followed at exhibition centres...
My answer would be to restore confidence in exhibitor and visitor community. I firmly believe that B2B exhibitions are not mass gatherings like entertainment events. It’s a controlled gathering of professionals who would conduct themselves in the best possible manner to avoid any risks.

We have a standard SOP, and it is continuously upgrading to match with the standards prescribed by the Government of India, industry associations and our headquarters at Germany. The SOP has stringent norms stressing on hygiene to ensure a safe visit to the venue, distancing rules for safe meetings, exhibitor guidelines for safe showcasing, norms for event organisation and services for the safety of everyone on the floor. Our #B-SAFE4business campaign worldwide promoting the SOP is well received by the market.

Describe what future exhibitions will look like...
It is likely to be a combination of virtual plus physical exhibitions. However, everyone is waiting for the vaccine, as there is no replacement for one-to-one interaction. Meeting people is second nature, especially for people in the Asian continent. I foresee an era of hybrid exhibitions.

Online meetings and virtual expos: are we looking at the future of exhibitions?
As I said, virtual is the need of the hour. We all have to understand that the scale of each IP is different. There are many IPs, which cannot go virtual because of the economic challenges and brand related risks. It’s a remote chance that all events will move on virtual platforms in the coming future. The scale of physical events can never be achieved by digital/online platforms.

Will digital platforms capitalise on virtual meetings?
Of course, digital platforms were already on the rise in terms of capturing the market. The present scene is the best time for them. However, digital can give you the best results when combined with other traditional marketing efforts. Since I would like to relate to the B2B platforms, for me, our Dmexco and Gamescon have been the most impressive platforms I have seen.

Has digital intervention trumped in-person meetings?
I had zero in-person meetings with my team during the lockdown, but now our offices are open and running. We are taking utmost precautions, life is coming back to a new normal. I am gradually going back to the pre-Covid schedules. However, since travelling and meetings are still not safe and there are restrictions, getting back to the original speed of work will take some time.

Hypothetical question: How will the exhibitions look like if there’s no vaccine for Covid-19 at all?
To everyone’s surprise countries such as Thailand, China, Australia and Germany have already begun with the live exhibitions and there is still no vaccine as on date. I feel that if appropriately managed, exhibitions can take place smoothly.

One message to your friends in the exhibition industry...
I keep telling this to my industry colleagues – nothing can replace the in-person meetings, so having patience may only offer us a workable solution.

Will our next meeting be virtual or face-to-face?
I would like to see you face-to-face in February 2021. Thank you.