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“The Exhibition Think Tank Club Concluded Digital Venture with Impactful Legacy, Acknowledging Industry Support and UFI Partnership”

In response to the unprecedented halt of exhibitions worldwide during the Covid crisis, the Exhibition Think Tank Club, an initiative from MBB Consulting Group supported by UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, emerged as a groundbreaking platform for collaboration and innovation. It aimed to tackle the challenges posed by the crisis and bring people together in difficult times.

Commencing in June 2020 with its inaugural online Think Tank, participants gathered to collaborate and discuss strategies for navigating the ongoing crisis. This initiative swiftly evolved into a vibrant community of industry professionals dedicated to fostering innovation and advancing the exhibition industry, then recognized as the Exhibition Think Tank Club (ETT Club).

The club’s membership witnessed steady growth, reaching a peak of 1,300 members based in 72 countries. It comprised a diverse, hierarchy-free community of exhibition organizers, venues, suppliers, associations, students, consultants, and others.

“Starting the ETT Club was one of the most rewarding projects I did in my career as I saw so many industry peers coming together and becoming friends all over the world” said Matthias Tesi Baur, CEO MBB-Consulting Group.

Managing the Exhibition Think Tank, MBB Consulting Group expressed pride and gratitude for the unwavering support from UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry, which became a business partner in 2020, further validating ETT Club’s significant impact on the industry.

The success of this initiative would not have been possible without the support of industry friends: ETT Club’s group leaders, sponsors, innovation supporters, and the vibrant community that joined in to collaborate and network, collectively pushing the industry forward.

The Club embraced various innovative online formats such as panel discussions, workshops, Education sessions, monthly innovation talks, micro-workshops, town hall meetings, Innovation “Sprints”, and thematic Think Tanks. Encouraging active participations and creating a platform to present the content and outcome of our sessions and group work was successful, with increasing collaboration and permanent groups of members meeting on a regular basic to discuss diverse hot topics. New friendships started to form, and the Exhibition Think Tank Club’s community of members kept growing.

The ETT Club established sub-groups, each addressing a distinct topic, and to enhance the sense of unity and individuality, the members were encouraged to create their own group logo and choose a name for their respective sub-group. Working in the background for several months or a year, with regular team meetings, the groups offered invaluable information and insights to the Exhibition Think Tank community. The ETT Middle East Event Professionals group still meets bi-monthly since 2021, the Value Proposition group created a full study on how to retain talent in our industry, and many more groups such as the Sustainability Group and the Data Monetisation Group created valuable content for the industry.

“Uniting the Exhibition Think Tank community and witnessing our members from all around the world collaborate on various pivotal topics has been a fantastic experience and a gratifying journey. I could not thank enough all industry professionals for actively engaging with each other and with the ETT Club, generously sharing knowledge, and supporting our industry through the crisis”, said Sandrine Pittaway, Senior Education and Project Manager.

The introduction of umbrella topics, called mission, for extended periods allowed for in-depth exploration, diverse perspectives, and genuine innovation. One of the Exhibition Think Tank’s significant missions, “Journey to Reopen the Exhibition Industry,” unfolded from March to June 2021. Comprising 30+ online sessions with 70+ speakers and an overall audience of 3000+ participants joining from multiple countries, this mission not only facilitated knowledge exchange and best practice sharing but also united professionals worldwide in navigating the challenges brought by the crisis, and how to reopen exhibitions when organisations were lacking human resources and when standard had dramatically changed.

To support the mission, spread the word and reach out to more professionals in the sector, the Exhibition Think Tank Club extended invitations to C-levels’ industry professionals, urging them to lend their support by associating their name with the mission. The response surpassed all expectations, as an impressive cohort of over 130 professionals enthusiastically joined as mission ambassadors. To amplify their involvement, bespoke banners were created for each ambassador, featuring a compelling personal message. These banners not only served as a visual representation of their commitment but also served as a rallying call, encouraging all stakeholders to participate in the mission and the series of online events organised to drive innovation and facilitate the safe and effective reopening of exhibitions.

The initiative continued to evolve with subsequent missions, including Marketing and Strategy, aiming to further innovate and network within the industry. The Exhibition Think Tank stands as a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the power of a global community united in overcoming industry challenges and fostering innovation.

Its growth made the Exhibition Think Tank a unique Club open to everyone. Throughout the years, Sponsors and Innovation Supporters joined the Club to support innovation. Moreover, it demonstrated that during times of crisis, the exhibition industry can swiftly unite and provide mutual support by exchanging ideas and learning from best practices. The Exhibition Think Tank created an ideal platform with effective communication and, more importantly, a favourable atmosphere for individuals to find a secure space and engage in open conversations to address the most significant crisis the industry had faced. The key to its success laid in its inclusivity, offering a voice to individuals across countries and cultures, fostering diversity, and placing innovation at its core. By uniting and emphasizing collaboration, stronger outcomes were achieved.

In 2023, the exhibition industry returned to pre-pandemic business conditions, and the focus of industry collaboration had shifted back to in-person exchanges and meetings, bringing MBB Consulting Group and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, to wrap up this digital-only venture. MBB Consulting Group refocused on its core business as a consulting and education service provider for the industry, and UFI continues to offer the club members opportunities to stay engaged through UFI moderated activities and channels.

True to the mission and primary purpose during the crisis, the Exhibition Think Tank Club concluded with a Final Think Tank on the 31st January 2024. This session brought together members who contributed to the Think Tank and engaged with the Club throughout this transformative journey, reflecting on achievements, lessons learned, and expectations for the future.

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