There are truly better jobs in these pandemic times than being a trade fair organizer, such as for last week's Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe. Who actually attends online? Does the range of conference topics meet the expectations and interests of the off-camera audience? Are the time invested and the knowledge gained by the followers, in a justifiable relationship? And how can the success or failure of such events be reliably measured after the final click?
Difficult questions, even at face-to-face events. The difference: When the audience participates, constructive and sometimes critical dialogues between the podium and the auditorium are
facilitated by direct questions and answers. People get to know each other, make appointments, or do business with each other, and initiate personal contacts.
Online trade fairs lack all of that, given the nature of their set-up.
Second best solution
So, because of these restrictions, should trade fair companies better opt to forego events such as Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe, for example, until exhibitors, trade visitors, and the general public can again participate in person?
The answer is a resounding NO. Why? First and foremost, because opinions can be exchanged digitally, albeit to a limited extent, via Zoom, Teams, or other communication channels. This is, if you will, a positive outcome of the pandemic and probably a lasting one even in post-Corona times. Another reason that speaks for online events, is that the transportation industry has changed significantly since the outbreak of Covid-19: it has become more agile, streamlined, and robust. This, thanks to the greater role that digitization now plays in the flow of day-to-day business processes, compared to pre-Corona times. Since the spring of 2020, digital events have practically been the global trend, as evidenced again last week by Messe München. It is worth talking about this change. Seen in this light, Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe provided a suitable setting for this.
Organizers under pressure
The fact that online meetings are nevertheless only a weak substitute for face-to-face events is something that the organizers of trade fairs know only too well. Especially since they have lost a significant revenue factor due to the absence of exhibitors, visitors, sponsors, etc. This is the main reason why Messe München recently significantly downsized its management team.
Cargo played only a supporting role
The question is what the latest trade show yielded. The bare figures, at least, are impressive. There were 87 conference presentations, attended by some 8,500 digitally connected viewers. Major themes that ran through most of the presentations were sustainability, new business models, home-sourcing vs. globalization, application areas of AI, and lessons learned from the Corona pandemic for logistics. The organizers thus covered what are currently probably the hottest and internationally most discussed fields of action.
As far as the conference offering specifically of air cargo topics is concerned, this was very manageable. Mostly, cargo was embedded in overarching logistics issues, i.e., a partial aspect of the range of topics. For example, what new opportunities artificial intelligence offers the transport industry, or whether Amazonization is the new, irreversible trend in the goods and transport industry.
The fact that the trade fair company is also open to new models is shown by the discussion on resilience in logistics (see the report in this issue). There, the panel was made up exclusively of female experts, i.e., female executives in logistics. A first in the history of Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe, with clear potential for expansion.
Hello trade fair organizers: Please be more courageous!
Finally, a critical word to the organizers: It is inexplicable why Andreas Scheuer, the German minister responsible for transport and digitalization, was once again allowed to open Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe and give the keynote speech. This bankrupt politician from the Bavarian conservative Christian Social Party (CSU) is responsible for the debacle with the toll issue he intended to impose on foreign car drivers. A poorly conceived project, stopped by the judges of the European Court of Justice, that will cost the German taxpayer over 500 million euros. Scheuer has driven the creation of a German highway operating company, which is also extremely expensive for the state coffers, against the wall, completely slept through the change to reform the German railroads, and has paid little attention to the development of digitization. If there is a miscast in the Merkel government, it is Scheuer.
It would be desirable for those responsible for the trade fair that in future Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe is not opened by losers, but by politicians or experts from the transport industry who know their business and whose words and deeds correspond.
The opportunity will arise in two years' time when the next Transport Logistic/Air Cargo Europe opens in Munich on June 9, 2023. Then, hopefully, as an on-location event.
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