Exclusive Conversation With Phil Chung, CEO of IICC Operating Company (KINEXIN), General Director of KINTEX


ES. What are the areas which will see drastic changes in exhibitions post the Covid19 period?
Phil. I guess the biggest difference from the past will be our sense of importance on the number of visitors at the exhibition site as well as the public sense of physical distance between people. Most of the organizers as well as visitors may think now that the quality factors are much more important and meaningful than the quantity factors for exhibitions. Quality over Quantity for recruiting and attracting visitors and buyers.

It is deemed that large number of crowd on site is no longer the proud criteria for the organizer because even visitors will feel the need to secure their individual ‘space’ more than any other times. Visitors are inclined to attend a less crowded exhibitions these days due to Covid19 than ever to enjoy their ‘show-time’ focusing on their individual buying and studying needs according to our observations on recent large exhibitions staged in our Korea venue. I think India organizers, for the time being till we see the reassuringly lowered Covid19 curve of India, can develop more ‘invitation-only’ style of exhibitions as they can predict the right number and quality of the visitors for their effective show crowd-control, and manage them relatively easily according to pre-made plans. About the shortage of the number of visitors, they may be able to attract more important people online regardless of their office locations. However, most of tradeshows will be again organized in large scales post-Covid19 period, and what’s needed will be more ‘spacious’ exhibiting spaces as you will need more space between booths, between people, etc. Organizers do not need to downsize their shows in order to make the audience feel more comfortable once they could secure some more additional space for such arrangements like on-site registrations, booth set-ups, queues and more.

Venues can consider supporting organizers in this way during the pandemic period, helping organizers and visitors maintain their existing needs, show-size and requirements while solving the physical distance concerns at least till the Covid19 issues get fully controllable in India and many other countries along with the rate of public vaccination. Naturally, the importance of digital visitor promotion’s expected to rise as exhibitors need the maximum exposure to the potential buyers of all places. Organizers can be creative in using numerous interesting gadgets like VR/AR gears, Smart-glasses enabling organizers and visitors to communicate real time regardless of their location while watching the displayed exhibits at a show.

And secondly, it may sound challenging to some countries, but I guess the importance of strong local champions will no longer be under-estimated. During the Covid19 period, we have seen most of the ‘international’ tradeshows have been largely damaged due to the international travel-restrictions of all types. However, in countries like Korea, China and Taiwan, I’ve been seeing not a few strong local shows are surviving even during these hard times. For international shows, in order to maintain the international status, the international tradeshow organizers should put more weight of significance on identifying and attracting numerous local and regional headquarters, subsidiaries, sales agencies, and all other local counterparts instead of courting their HQs which will suffer international travel-restrictions during this the pandemic period and even afterwards, such importance will rise I guess as international visitors shall watch the pandemic situation even afterwards for the time being. Therefore, international organizations like UFI and ICCA may need to reconsider of updating and revising their traditional criteria on ‘international exhibitions or international conventions’ which mainly considered the number of foreign travelers from outside of the country for the official international expo audits in the past. We definitely need quite a different criteria on assessing the quality of exhibitions and conventions unlike the pre-Covid19 era.

ES. How do you see the role of technology in events and what would be the tech trends for event venues in 2021?
Phil. I’ve discussed with a lot of event software developers for the creation of several experimental virtual tradefair formats, and personally come up with a conclusion that such virtual tradeshows absolutely cannot replace our physical exhibitions or tradeshows. Tradeshows and exhibitions have been surviving and evolving for several centuries regardless of pandemics, wars and other challenges. For many corporate workers, buyers and business owners, tradeshows are offering great opportunities to free them from their office routines, which helps them to break away from the steady. It is also a getaway business at the same time, so many countries consider them as a big part of business tourism. I don’t personally see it more as a tourism though. And they travel to see the shows and with the refreshed minds, they can focus fully on each and every exhibit, and make significant volume-purchasing decisions.

Therefore, it would never work if things go from ‘digital to physical’; rather, they should go from ‘physical to digital’ in their show approaches of all types, which means that the very starting point is the actual and physical exhibiting space at the venue, and then they can try to add many enhanced experiential solutions. May be you can see the physical show-floor sometimes through augmented reality gears or smart glasses that can add more real time information to the users so that they can have more effective and informative communications with visitors and booth marketers. You can sometimes enjoy playing games provided by some sponsoring companies while at the venue. I see AR or MR(Mixed Reality) technologies may work. And every solutions and technologies, however, are considered to be ‘supplementary measures’ adding more pleasure and effectiveness to the physical experiences.