WOF’s annual summit will take place from 04 to 05MAY22, at the Marriot Hotel in Vienna, Austria. This B2B event aims to bridge the entire supply chain, while seeking to create business opportunities particularly for those supply chain members active in Central and Eastern Europe. The 2-day trade show focuses on three main topics - Digitalization, e-commerce, and the European Green Deal and its consequences for the logistics industry. Attending the event is highly recommendable since a lot of food for thought is offered to the attendees, WOF’s CCO Christoph Grasl (C.G.), reasons in this interview:
CFG: Christoph, what are the USPs the World of Freight event offers to the attendees?
C.G.: It all started with the vision of a handful logistics experts from all over the world, to create a new innovative platform for the logistics and supply chain industry. Our slogan “Explore The World Of Freight In The Heart Of Europe” is a perfect description of what we create and where our focus lies. With the WOF EXPO in Bratislava last year, we set our first milestone, and out of this experience and the valuable customer feedback, we designed the WOF SUMMIT Vienna 2022. Even that is not just another logistics congress in Austria, but the first ever with a true regional approach for Central Eastern Europe. We have top industry speakers, not only from Austria, Germany, and the CEE countries, but even from overseas such as India and the United States. Furthermore, the optimal networking atmosphere for all our visitors is essential for us. We combine an exclusive exhibition area, a VIP networking area, the top keynotes and panel discussions, and the evening gala WOF Connect & Charity. That makes our WOF summit a unique experience for all logistics and supply chain friends with a CEE focus.
CFG: Going a step back: Bratislava-based and 2019-incepted, WOF’s aim is to develop into a reliable platform connecting the logistics players in all of Central and Eastern Europe, enabling all parties involved new business opportunities. How far has WOF come in implementing this objective so far?
C.G.: We had a kind of perfect timing in setting up WOF Group exactly before the global Covid pandemic crisis. Once it began, we definitely got delayed with our first event, but had also sufficient time for preparation. WOF Expo 2021 in Bratislava was an amazing experience and we received mainly outstanding feedback from our sponsors and visitors at the event. On the other hand, we also had our learning curve, three stages at the same time and a big exhibition area for three days already at our first event was a bit too much and partly people got lost. We have streamlined the WOF Summit in Vienna and also the next WOF Expo in Prague in October this year, and try to make it an even better visitor experience for networking. With our “facetoface” scheduler app we offer all visitors the perfect networking preparation. Already two weeks before the event, everyone registered can search and fix the most suitable networking meetings for the personal needs. Our WOF magazine and social media reach is growing continuously, so I would say we are on an overall good track.
CFG: One of the key topics standing on your agenda reads: “Logistics Leadership of Tomorrow”. Could you give us first hints how new forms of leadership should look?
Logistics is still a people’s business, so we have teamed up with leading Universities from different CEE countries to discuss with high potentials as to their expectations of logistics leadership roles of the future. Professor Sebastian Kummer from Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Julia Fallmann, Head of Corporate HR at Quehenberger Group, will analyze the needs from a scientific and corporate viewpoint. Already during our preparation zoom calls, we had a great exchange of ideas and solutions, so everyone who is out to get the best people on board (and keep them) should better listen carefully to the demands of the young high potentials in digitalization, carbon neutrality, and work-life balance.
CFG: You are focusing, among other topics, on the Green Deal propagated by the EU, and the resulting challenges for the logistics industry. That sounds rather general. What can participants expect from the session in terms of new insights for their day-to-day business and workflows?
C.G.: Of course, it is a wide topic, but nowadays, with Russia’s attack on Ukraine and soaring energy costs, more important than ever. Economic and ecological targets were never before as close to each other. We have designed two panel discussions for our participants. One focuses on the transport industry, e-mobility, hydrogen, e-fuels, and how realistic is a short to midterm implementation on which sectors. The other one focuses on sustainable logistics and industrial real estate developments; what trends and best practice examples can we see already today. How important is it for the end-customers, and are they willing to pay for it?
CFG: WOF offers attendees a lounge for networking opportunities, where experts can discuss projects, negotiate offers, and close deals. Isn't networking, the personal exchange of experiences, becoming more and more important at trade shows like WOF? And if so, doesn't that require new organizational formats?
C.G.: At the end of the day, optimal networking is the key for success for us. We aim to create the perfect networking platform for our visitors and there is not just the one solution for it. Our customers can choose their preferred way of networking at our events, we have traditional long breaks in between the keynotes and panel discussion, to have a coffee with a business friend and exchange ideas. Additionally, we offer the VIP networking lounge in combination with the “facetoface” scheduler and the opportunity to prearrange the most valuable networking sessions according to the single business needs. On top of this, our visitors can have industry chats with our exhibitors, and, last but not least, during the “WOF Connect & Charity” evening event where we support and donate together with our partners for the Austrian Cancer Aid. The mix of all of this, plus industry experts from all over Central Eastern Europe and even global guests, give the right approach for everyone’s personal networking needs.
CFG: Finally, the currently most threatening and depressing theme, Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the consequences for the supply chains particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, is not an official topic mentioned in your program. Why?
C.G.: Russia’s attack on Ukraine was as unexpected for us as it was for everybody else. Nobody could imagine that this would really happen. In the first couple of days, we were just shocked and tried to help where possible. Our CEO even went personally to the Ukraine border to help refugees on their way into the European Union. Many countries in the CEE region have a border with Ukraine, many Ukraine truck drivers that worked in the EU, went back to fight for their country, Russia decided this week to stop the gas supply for Poland and Bulgaria, many factories in the Ukraine and Russia cannot supply parts for production in the EU – just to name a few heavy impacts on our region, not even to mention the diesel costs. We felt all of those topics would be too big for a single panel, and we did not want to create the WAR Summit, but the WOF Summit. Therefore, we finally decided to integrate the impacts on the supply chain caused by this horrible war in Europe, into the existing panel discussions and keynotes, to keep an overall valuable balance for our audience.
CFG: Christoph, thank you for your insights.
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